TOURING THE KOSHER KITCHEN
Latkes: A pancake-like structure not to
be confused with anything the House of Pancakes would put out. In a
latke, the oil is in the pancake. It is made with potatoes, onions, eggs
and matzoh meal. Latkes can be eaten with apple sauce but never with
maple syrup. There is a rumor that in the time of the Maccabees they lit
a latke by mistake and it burned for eight days. What is certain is you
will have heartburn for the same amount of time.
Matzoh: The Egyptians' revenge for leaving slavery. It consists of a
simple mix of flour and water - no eggs or flavor at all. When made
well it could actually taste like cardboard. Its redeeming value is
that it does fill you up and stays with you for a long time. However, it
is recommended that you eat a few prunes soon after.
Kasha Varnishkes: One of the little-known delicacies which is even more
difficult to pronounce than to cook. It has nothing to do with Varnish,
but is basically a mixture of buckwheat and bow-tie macaroni (noodles).
Why a bow-tie? Many sages discussed this and agreed that some Jewish
mother decided that "You can't come to the table without a tie" or, God
forbid, "An elbow on my table?"
Blintzes: Not to be confused with the German war machine. Can you
imagine the N.Y. Post 1939 headlines: "Germans drop tons of cheese and
blueberry blintzes over Poland - shortage of sour cream expected."
Basically the blintz is the Jewish answer to crepes suzette.
Kishka: You know from Haggis? Well, this ain't it. In the old days they
would take an intestine and stuff it. Today we use parchment paper or
plastic. And what do you stuff it with? Carrots, celery, onions, flour,
and spices. But the trick is not to cook it alone but to add it to the
cholent (see below) and let it cook for 24 hours until there is no
chance whatsoever that there is any nutritional value left.
Kreplach: It sounds worse than it tastes. There is a Rabbinical debate
on its origins. One Rabbi claims it began when a fortune cookie fell
into his chicken soup. The other claims it started in an Italian
restaurant. Either way it can be soft, hard, or soggy and the amount of
meat inside depends on whether it is your mother or your mother-in-law
who cooked it.
Cholent: This combination of noxious gases had been the secret weapon of
Jews for centuries. The unique combination of beans, barley, potatoes,
and bones or meat is meant to stick to your ribs and anything else it
comes into contact with. At a fancy Mexican restaurant (kosher of
course) I once heard the comment from a youngster who had just had his
first taste of Mexican refried beans, "What! Do they serve leftover cholent here too?!" My wife once tried something unusual for guests. She
made cholent burgers for Sunday night supper. The guests never came
Gefilte Fish: A few years ago, I had problems with my filter in my fish
pond and a few of them got rather stuck and mangled. My five year old
son looked at them and commented "Is that why we call it 'Ge Filtered
Fish'?" Originally, it was a carp stuffed with a minced fish and
vegetable mixture. Today it usually comprises of small fish balls eaten
with horseradish ("chrain") which is judged on its relative strength in
bringing tears to your eyes at 100 paces.
Bagels: How can we finish without the quintessential Jewish Food, the
bagel? Like most foods, there are legends surrounding the bagel although
I don't know any. There have been persistent rumors that the inventors
of the bagel were the Norwegians who couldn't get anyone to buy smoked
lox. Think about it: Can you picture yourself eating lox on white bread?
Rye? A cracker? Nah. They looked for something hard and almost
indigestible which could take the spread of cream cheese and which
doesn't take up too much room on the plate. And why the hole? The truth
is that many philosophers believe the hole is the essence and the dough
is only there for emphasis.
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