Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Growing up Jewish

If you get this and you are not Jewish... I cannot even begin to explain it to you.

This actually goes back 2 generations, 3 if you are over 50. It also
explains why many Jewish men died in their early 60's with a non-functional
cardiovascular system and looked like today's men at 89,

Before we start, there are some variations in ingredients because of the
various types of Jewish taste (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!) Then there are grebenes - 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.

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.

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), 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 soda (Kik, Dominion Dry, seltzer in the spritz bottles).

Growing up Jewish:

If you are Jewish, and grew up in city with a large Jewish population, or
are gentile with Jewish friends or associates, the following will invoke
heartfelt memories.

The Yiddish word for today is PULKES (PUHL-kees). Translation: THIGHS.
Please note: this word has been traced back to the language of one of the
original Tribes of Israel, the Cellulites.

The only good advice that your Jewish mother gave you was: "Go! You might
meet somebody!"

You grew up thinking it was normal for someone to shout "Are you okay?"
through the bathroom door when you were in there longer than 3 minutes.

Your family dog responded to commands in Yiddish.

Every Saturday morning your father went to the neighborhood deli (called an
"appetitizing store") for whitefish salad, whitefish "chubs", lox (nova if
you were rich!), herring, corned beef, roast beef, cole slaw, potato salad,
a 1/2-dozen huge barrel pickles which you reached into the brine for, a
dozen assorted bagels, cream cheese and rye bread (sliced while he waited).
All of which would be strictly off-limits until Sunday morning.

Every Sunday afternoon was spent visiting your grandparents and/or other

You experienced the phenomenon of 50 people fitting into a 10-foot-wide
dining room hitting each other with plastic plates trying to get to a deli

You had at least one female relative who penciled on eyebrows which were
always asymmetrical.

You thought pasta was stuff used exclusively for Kugel and kasha with

You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven.

You were as tall as your grandfather by age seven and a half.

You never knew anyone whose last name didn't end in one of 5 standard
suffixes (berg, baum, man, stein and witz).

You were surprised to discover that wine doesn't always taste like cranberry

You can look at gefilte fish and not turn green.

When your mother smacked you really hard, she continued to make you feel bad for hurting her hand.

You can understand Yiddish but you can't speak it.

You know how to pronounce numerous Yiddish words and use them correctly in
context, yet you don't know exactly what they mean. Kaynahurra.

You're still angry at your parents for not speaking both Yiddish and English
to you when you were a baby.

You have at least one ancestor who is somehow related to your spouse's

You thought speaking loud was normal.

You considered your Bar or Bat Mitzvah a "Get Out of Hebrew School Free"

You think eating half a jar of dill pickles is a wholesome snack.

You're compelled to mention your grandmother's "steel cannonballs" upon
seeing fluffy matzo balls served at restaurants.

You buy 3 shopping bags worth of hot bagels on every trip to Montreal and
ship them home via FedEx. (Or, if you live near Montreal or another Jewish
city hub, you drive 3 hours just to buy a dozen "real" bagels.)

Your mother or grandmother took personal pride when a Jew was noted for some accomplishment (showbiz, medicine, politics, etc.) and was ashamed and embarrassed when a Jew was accused of a crime... as if they were relatives.

You thought only non-Jews went to sleep away colleges. Jews went to city
schools... unless they had scholarships or made an Ivy League school.

And finally, you knew that Sunday night and the night after any Jewish
holiday was designated for Chinese food.

Zei gezunt!!

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