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How to Bring Back Grandma's Yiddish Cooking
Submitted by Lloyd Rubin
First, buy a housecoat (shmata) and wear it all day, every day.Then go out and buy a live chicken, and then watch the shoichet (slaughterer) who will ritually slaughter it before your very eyes. Either pay a few cents more at the chicken market to have one of the ladies squat down to do this or else when you get it home, flick (pluck) your chicken and make sure you don't leave in any pinchus (feather ends)
In the meantime, cover your couch in clear plastic, or floral slip covers, and don't let anyone into your living room again ...unless they are "company." Now you're a real balabusta and 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) and get ready to hock the tzibbeles (chop the onions) and knubble (garlic)..
Before we start, however, there are some variations in ingredients because of the various types of Jewish taste (Litvack and Gallicianer).
Just as we Jews have six seasons of the year (winter, spring, summer, fall, slack, and busy), 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 stating: LOW FAT, NO CHOLESTEROL, NEWMAN'S CHOICE, EXTRA VIRGIN SCHMALTZ (it can't miss!)
Let's start, of course, with the forshpeiz (appetizer). Gehockteh layber (chopped liver) with schmaltz and tzibbeles (onion) is always good, but how about something more exotic for your dear ones boiled whitefish in yoyech (gell). it's fried in -- you guessed it -- schmaltz, bread crumbs, eggs, onions, salt and pepper. Love it!
Then there are greebenes, which are pieces of chicken skin, deep-fried in schmaltz, onions and salt until crispy brown -- you'll usually put some of this in the chopped liver plus they make a wonderful sandwich on WHITE bread with pieces of the onion (this also makes a great appetizer for the next cardiology 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 (chopper), add some meat, onions, lots of garlic, schmaltz (yes, again), salt and pepper,cook for five hours, and let it sit overnight. WE NEVER HAD THESE CALVES FEET IN OUR HOME; but we did have chicken feet in our chicken soup (See below)
We also have knishes (filled dough) and the eternal question: "Will that be liver, beef, 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's turned inside out, scalded and scraped. One end is sewn up and a mixture of flour, schmaltz (you didn't think we'd leave that out), onions, eggs, salt, pepper, etc., is spooned into the open end and squished down until it is full. Then that end is sewn, and the whole thing is boiled and then baked. Still to this day one of my favorites! Yummy!
Well, we've finally finished the forshpeiz. Don't tell me you're full because there's plenty to come. For our next course, we always had chicken soup sea of lokshen (noodles), farfel (broken bits of matzah), the egg embryo (that yellow ball), carrots, celery, turnip, onions, mondlech (soup nuts), knaydlach (matzoh dumplings), kasha, (groats), kliskelech and marech (marrow bones) along with the chicken legs, heart, gorgle (neck), pipick (the navel, a great delicacy, given to the favorite child, usually me, since I was the only child!), a fleegle (wing) or two, sometimes the breast all in a broth of schmaltz, water, paprika, etc. MMMM, I can taste that sweet, fatty chicken soup!
The main course, as I recall, was either boiled chicken, flanken, kackletten (hockfleish--chopped meat), or some other beef dish which was only served either well done, burned, or cremated. Occasionally, we had liver and onions done to a burned and hardened perfection in our own coal furnace.
Since we couldn't have milk or any dairy products (milchiks) with our meat meals (flayshiks), beverages consisted of cheap pop (seltzer in the spritz bottles), or a glezel tay (glass of hot tea) served in a yahrtzeit (memorial) 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.....unless it was Jello (what do you mean Jell-o wasn't kosher?) My mom never learned how to make schmaltz Jell-O. Oh yes, don't forget the loud greps (belch) -- the louder the better --at the end of the meal as you unbutton or unzip your pants. It's often the best part of the repast.
Zei mir gezunt (be well)......and savor all the wonderful memories with family during the holidays.
from the December 2005 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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