edhalmagyi table talk
You really did fall into the schmaltz pot, Edward
THERE was an older Jewish man who played a central role in my formative years.
Kindly, dapper and distinctly elegant, he would twirl the end of his thin moustache and make thoughtful observations.
I was a teenager, and wellentrenched in an established pattern of compensating for my lack of worldliness with an ample outpouring of confident bluster. For me there was no problem too complex, no challenge too difficult.
Fred would chuckle as he watched my bravado.
“You really did fall into the schmaltz pot, Edward,” Fred observed.
Although utterly bemused by this, his manner left me in no doubt that it was some cryptic form of praise.
In fact, it’s an old Ashkenazi Jewish saying that describes a form of unintended good fortune. To fall in the schmaltz pot is to chance upon the jackpot.
But what is this “schmaltz” that is in the pot of which Fred spoke? Actually, it’s a food. Schmaltz is a form of rendered chicken fat (or occasionally goose) that was popular with the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe and Russia. Most animal f fats are prohibited under th the laws of kosher, includin including cattle, sheep, goats an and pigs. Moreover, in older tim times the vegetable oils so popular in the Mediter Mediterranean were distant, expensive and hard to come by. This meant that few forms of cooking oil were availa available, and cooks had to m make do. Schmaltz may not be th the healthiest form of oil but it certainly is rich and delicious, with a distinct chicken overtone. Used widely in J Jewish cuisine, it is a also the key in ingredient that will gi give a matzo ball its customary tenderness. While this takes a little while to perfect, it’s a dish t that will get you throug through winter, welldeserving of its nickname – Jewish Penicillin.