Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Taste of the Past

The holiday of Passover was an event when amazing culinary feats occurred in my childhood home. This holiday’s preparations required considerable effort including the making of gefilte fish, horseradish, chicken soup, matzoh balls and many other culinary delights. Everything was made from scratch including the gefilte fish, (fish patties) served with hand-grated horseradish.

There were no food processors to do the work, just old fashioned elbow grease! To make the fish, my Father bought 30-40 pounds of whole carp fish. The fish was filleted and ground, spices and other ingredients were added. Then the mixture was formed into balls, and cooked in a large pot with carrots, and broth. My Mother had her special tasters. One of her cousins would come to our home to sample the delicacy and give his opinion. The creation of this delicacy really became an event that took several people to complete.

Eventually, each fish patty would be refrigerated and cooled and later served with a very spicy hand-grated horseradish condiment.

My Father bought the horseradish root and sat outdoors with his grater and grated the pungent root. The aroma made one cry it was so strong. This is why it was done out-of-doors. Grating this root was a tough job…a man’s job. When the grating was complete, I recall that he added beet juice to it which gave it the red color. My father also made sour pickles and sour green tomatoes from scratch in big wooden barrels. I remember giant springs of dill, bay leaves and numerous other spices.

I have many other memories of making Jewish culinary delights like blintzes, kreplach, and preserved fruits. These activities were often done helping my Mother, her aunts and cousins. How wonderful it would be to have these wonderful recipes and experiences documented and preserved for future generations! Those days are gone and people do not make these foods any longer. It really is a part of history that has been lost.

My Mother told me of the days when she used to make braided challah bread with her grandmother every Shabbat. They would paint the bread with egg white to give it a nice shine. The aroma of the baking bread would permeate the house with a very pleasing feeling. It brought the entire family together weekly in celebration of the Shabbat.

Debbie W.

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