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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Jewish Cooking Returns

Remember how your grandmother used to cook? Where is that cooking now? I'm talking about the lack of good old, down-home Jewish cooking in our homes. I am taking it upon myself to help out all you frantic housewives out there, with wonderful menus that will lead your children to a healthy, happy, and loving family unit as I knew it in my childhood.

First, go down to Filene's basement, buy a housecoat (shmata), and wear it all day, every day. Then go out and buy a live chicken. Carry it wrapped in a newspaper to the shoichet (slaughterer) who will ritually slaughter it before your very eyes. When you get it home, flick your chicken and make sure you don't leave in any pinchus (feather ends). Next, go out and buy a four-foot-long carp with huge whiskers. Fill your bathtub with water and let the fish swim in it for several days. In the meantime, roll up your burbur broadloom, and remove it from the living room. Polish the hardwood floors and cover them in newspaper. Cover your couch in clear plastic, or floral slip covers. And don't let anyone in your living room again ....unless they are 'company.' Now you're a real "BALABUSTA," which is a term of respect used for an efficient Jewish housewife. The essence of your universe is in the kitchen.

So get out your wooden matches, light the pilot light, get out the volgar holtz (wooden bowl), hock the tzibbeles (onions) and knubble (garlic), and we're Jewish again. Before we start, however, there are some variations in ingredients because of the various types of Jewish tastes (Polack, Litvack and Gallicianer). Just as we Jews have six seasons of the year (winter, spring, summer, fall, the slack season, and the busy season), we all focus on a main ingredient which, unfortunately, and undeservedly, has disappeared from our diet. I'm talking, of course, about SCHMALTZ (chicken fat). SCHMALTZ has for centuries been the prime ingredient in almost every Jewish dish, and I feel it's time to revive it to its rightful place in our homes. (I have plans to distribute it in a green glass Gucci bottle with a label clearly saying: low fat, no cholesterol, Newman's Choice, extra virgin SCHMALTZ. (It can't miss!)

Let's start, of course, with the "forshpeiz" (appetizer). Gehockteh leiber (chopped liver) with SCHMALTZ is always good, but how about something more exotic for your dear ones, like boiled whitefish in yoyech (soup) which sets into a jelly form, or "gefilteh miltz" (stuffed spleen), in which the veins are removed, thank God, and it is fried in, you guessed it, SCHMALTZ, bread crumbs, eggs, onions, salt and pepper? Love it! How about stewed lingen (lungs) - very chewy - or gehenen (brains) - very slimy. Am I making your mouth water yet? Then there are greebenes - pieces of chicken skin, deep fried in SCHMALTZ, onions and salt until crispy brown (Jewish bacon). This makes a great appetizer for the next cardiologist's convention. Another favorite, and I'm sure your children will love it, is pe'tcha (jellied calves feet). Simply chop up some cows' feet with your hockmesser (handl-chopper), add some meat, onions, lots of garlic, SCHMALTZ again, salt and pepper, cook for five hours and let it sit overnight. You might want to serve it with oat bran and bananas for an interesting breakfast (just joking). There's also a nice chicken fricassee (stew) using the heart, gorgle (neck), pipick (a great delicacy given to the favorite child, usually me), a fleegle (wing) or two, some ayelech (little premature eggs) and other various chicken innards, in a broth of SCHMALTZ, water, paprika, etc. We also have knishes (filled dough) and the eternal question "Will that be liver, beef or potatoes or all three?" Other time-tested favorites are kishkeh, and its poor cousin, helzel (chicken or goose neck). Kishkeh is the gut of the cow, bought by the foot at the Kosher butcher. It is turned inside out, scalded and scraped. One end is sewn up and a mixture of flour, SCHMALTZ, onions, eggs, salt, pepper, etc. is spooned into the open end and squished down until it is full. The other end is sewn and the whole thing is boiled. Yummy! My personal all-time favorite is watching my Zaida (grandpa) munch on boiled chicken feet. Try that on the kinderlach (children) tomorrow.

For our next course, we always had chicken soup with pieces of yellow-white, rubbery chicken skin floating in a greasy sea of lokshen (noodles), farfel (broken bits of matzah), arbiss (chickpeas), lima beans, pietrishkeh, tzibbeles (onions), mondlech (soup nuts), kneidlach (dumplings), kasha, (groats) kliskelech and marech (marrow bones).

The main course, as I recall, was either boiled chicken, flanken, kackletten (hockfleish-chopped meat), and sometimes rib steaks which were served either well done, burned or cremated. Occasionally we had barbecued liver done to a burned and hardened perfection in our own coal furnace. Since we couldn't have milk with our meat meals, beverages consisted of cheap pop (Kik, Dominion Dry, seltzer in the spritz bottles) or a glezel tay (glass of hot tea) served in a yohrtzeit (memorial candle) glass and sucked through a sugar cube held between the incisors. Desserts were probably the only things not made with SCHMALTZ, so we never had any. Momma never learned how to make Schmaltz Jello.

Well, now you know the secret of how I've grown up to be so tall, sinewy, slim and trim, energetic, extremely clever and modest, and, if you want your children to grow up to be like me, you're in gohnsen meshuggah (completely nuts)!

ZEI MIR GEZUNT (Go in good health)...and order out Chinese.

posted by Gary  # 4/01/2004 08:44:00 PM
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