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September 26, 1986 - Image 72

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-09-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

gefilte fish is horseradish dyed red with
beet juice.
To soothe the fevered brow which
follows, soup has traditionally been the
thing. Chicken soup was considered the
miracle of folk medicine and became
known as Jewish penicillin.
The soup is often served with
lukshen (noodles), graphic testimony to
the wisdom that "Love is grand, but
love with lukshen is even better."
Knaydlach (matzoh balls), made with
matzoh meal, eggs and fat, are equally
welcome in chicken soup. Some en-
thusiasts like them light, and others feel
shortweighted by knaydlach that rise to
the surface.
Many prefer kreplach in the soup,
though. Kreplach — boiled or fried,
stuffed with meat or cheese — may also
be served without soup. Traditionally
these Jewish relatives of ravioli and
won ton are eaten three times a year:
on Yom Kippur, when you beat your
breast; on Hoshana Raba, when you
beat the ground with willow branches;
and during Purim, when you beat the
floor with your feet at mention of the
name Haman. You eat kreplach a
fourth time during the year, so the
story goes, when you beat your wife to
get her to make them again.
Mushroom-barley soup stands close
to chicken soup on the scale of
popularity, and not far behind is
borsht — beet soup — familiar to the
expression "You don't know from
borsht."
Isaac Bashevis Singer is enthusiastic
about blintzes, and indeed who is not?
Blintzes are golden pancakes (not quite
so delicate as crepes) rolled up with cot-
tage cheese or fruit or chopped nuts or
even poppy seeds inside, fried or baked,
and served with sour cream and
sometimes with fruit preserves as well.
Everything that's good is better with
sour cream. This wholesome exaggera-
tion holds strictly true for raw vege-
tables, fruits, potatoes, borsht, and her-
ring, not to mention beef Stroganoff.
Some people will put sour cream on
knishes (the k is sounded, with or
without sour cream), which are cro-
quettes usually stuffed with potatoes,
kasha (buckwheat groats), or meat.
They are fried or baked and served
hot.
Bella Krenzel, a Philadelphia
housewife who was born in the
Ukraine, remembers that her husband
kept discovering different varieties of
knishes made by other women: "He us-
ed to say the grocery lady made cab-
bage knishes, or knishes from beans.
Who'd ever heard of such things! But I

72

was jealous — so I made them. And
when I made them, his favorite expres-
sion was 'Next year you'll make them
again.' He meant he didn't really like
them."

0

my the rare Jewish husband
gives his wife her due. More
common is an offhand ap-
praisal — "Men ken dus
essen." (It's edible.) Reproached for not
complimenting his wife on her cooking,
the husband replies: "Es dart ziyn gut!"
(It's supposed to be good!) The same
husband who pretends to be indifferent
will scrape his plate clean, discover an
unused fork or spoon, and hold it
aloft, saying, "This must be for
something!"
If his enthusiasm is moderate, it is
hardly her fault. The Jewish wife is no
believer in modesty. She exclaims over
her own kreplach, "They'll melt in
your mouth." "This is delicious," she
says as she serves her homemade
borsht.
She is less enthusiastic about other
women's cooking, and at restaurants
she can be downright grudging. Tasting
the soup, she may say, "They forgot to
take out the fat," or, with equal con-
viction: "They took out all the fat. Do
they call that soup?"
And what do they call a bagel? They
call a doughnut-shaped roll a bagel —
when made with a yeast dough first
boiled in water, then baked in the
oven until brown and very hard. No
sugar, please — it's a bagel, not a
doughnut. One theory is that bagels
represent the mystery of life, since
there's no way to get at them without
breaking teeth.
There are even more variations than
theories: egg bagels, onion bagels, garlic
bagels, poppy seed bagels, cinnamon
bagels, pumpernickel bagels, even green
bagels on St. Patrick's Day.
Much less roundabout are the staple
Jewish breads — especially rye and
pumpernickel. The challah — made
from white flour and egg and glazed
with egg yolk — is the queen of braids.
Lekach (honey cake) and sponge are
the cake staples. Sponge cake may be
the only item in Jewish cuisine about
which there is something like unanimi-
ty: it should be light, and the more
eggs the better. Strudel is even higher
in nostalgia content; thus, only grand-
mothers can make strudel, never
mothers. The dough is rolled extremely
thin. Inside are ingredients such as ap-
ples, cottage cheese, jam, cherries,
raisins and nuts. Cheesecake is the
favorite of Jews emancipated, Jews

Friday, September 26, 1986 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

traditional, and Jews whose grand-
mothers are too busy to make strudel.

W

ith Jewish cooking, it's
hard to know where
cuisine leaves off and
ritual starts; religious and
holiday observances vary not only in
prayer but also in food. From the com-
mandment to honor God on the Sab-
bath there grew up the practice of
eating a special meal on Friday night, -
when the Sabbath begins. The dinner
usually starts with gefilte fish or chop-
ped liver, moves on to chicken soup
with trimmings, then chicken boiled or
roasted — with jugel. Cake and lemon
tea or coffee follow.
The Pesach (Passover) holiday corn-
memorates the exodus from Egypt,
when Moses led his people out of bon-
dage. Honoring the Biblical account of
the Jew's hurried flight with bread
which had no time to leaven, obser-
vant Jews will eat only unleavened
bread (matzoh) during the holiday.
This unleavened bread is good with
butter and salt, or fried with eggs to
make matzoh brei.
On Rosh haShanah it is traditional
to eat something sweet, such as apple
slices dipped in honey, and to say the
prayer: "May it be Thy will that this
year shall be happy and sweet for us."
Yom Kippur is a solemn fast day,
traditionally brought to a close with a
meal of herring, boiled potatoes and
sour cream, cakes and tea. The challah
on this occasion has a dough ladder —
strips across a long loaf — to help
prayers rise to heaven.

A nosher is a man
training to become a
fresser. A fresser is
just a guy with a
feed bag who can't
say when.

Purim (Feast of Esther) is the time to
eat hamantashen, tricornered cakes
filled with plum or apricot jam, poppy
seeds, or raisins — all in memory of the
Biblical account of the villainy of
Haman.
Hannukah (Festival of Lights) is the
time for latkes (potato pancakes). One
theory is that latkes are popular during
Hannukah because they are easy to eat
while playing cards.

Shavuot is a harvest festival, an occa-
sion for eating cheese and milk
products.
During Sukkot (Feast of the Taber-
nacles) religious Jews eat meals in a suk-
kah — a rudimentary outdoor shelter
whose walls and ceiling are decorated
with vegetables and fruit.
All year round the supreme indoor
shelters are the Jewish delicatessens.
Originally most were kosher; many are
now "kosher style" — which means
that they stock Jewish specialties,
kosher or not. Many of the
delicatessens have restaurant sections ;
and in exceptionally fancy establish-
ments there are even tablecloths.

Corned beef and pastrami — hot and
sliced — are basic to the delicatessen's
sandwich counter, and to "delicatessen"
used as a noun to cover a multitude of
other skins as well: salami, rolled beef,
tongue, porkless frankfurters including
the plump ones known as "specials,"
roast beef and turkey.
Since Jewish housewives are stuck
with the notion that only a home-
cooked meal can satisfy the soul, they
are less enthusiastic about delicatessen
than their husbands. Many a housewife
suspects that the family car is pro-
grammed to detour via the delicatessen
to allow the husband a nosh. A nosh
is more than a sample, less than a ban-
quet. A nosher is a man training to
become a fresser. A fresser is just a guy
with a feed bag on who can't say
when.
Shrines to nosher and fresser have
blossomed. Detroit (birthplace of the
detouring car) has about 70
delicatessens, including one whose
owner calls his place "a corned beef
happening." Atlanta has Happy Her-
man's and Sal's Ess'n Fress.
Philadelphia boasts many delis, in-
cluding one whose owner, Stanley
Greenberg, complains: "I'd have to be a
brain surgeon to cut a piece of corned
beef the way some of my Jewish
customers want it."
Jewish delicatessens and restaurants
are the only ones where you can get in-
digestion before your order arrives —
from the sour pickles and the impatient
waiters, high priests of chutzpah.
Customers occasionally fight back.
"This fish has gone bad," complains a
customer in an ancient delicatessen
story, "and why is the portion so
small?"
Such worries never assail guests at
bar mitzvahs or weddings. The caterer's
slogan is: More is better, and less is a
bad advertisement. This means acres of
appetizers to stuff on, followed by an

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