Gefilte breath is worth it

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment & Analysis - David Rob­son

IT CAME as a dis­ap­point­ment fol­lowed by a rev­e­la­tion. “I’ve had a bit of an ar­gu­ment with the cater­ers,” said my friend, the about-to-be bride. “I’ve told them that on no ac­count am I hav­ing fried gefilte fish­balls at the wed­ding buf­fet.” A wed­ding buf­fet with­out gefilte fish balls, what sort of a wed­ding is that? “Why on earth not?” I asked. “Be­cause they give you bad breath,” she replied. “Ev­ery­body knows that.” “What are you hav­ing in­stead?” I de­manded. “Gou­jons,” she smiled. ‘”That would be gou­jons rather than Jewjons then,” I said.

But my mind had al­ready moved on. Did ev­ery­body re­ally know gefilte fish balls give you bad breath? Be­cause I cer­tainly did not.

It may ex­plain a few things. Why, at wed­dings and bar­mitz­vahs, sup­pos­edly happy hunt­ing grounds for sin­gle men, did women al­ways stay well away from me? I had long ago come to the un­com­fort­able con­clu­sion that for lack of good looks and in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion I was be­ing fil­tered out. Or was it gefiltered out?

I have de­cided not to find out. Who wants breath fresh as a moun­tain stream if it means no more gefilte fish or egg and onion? Not to men­tion chrane. I cleave to the tra­di­tional diet where the only greens are pick­les and I ap­plaud the loy­alty shown to it.

I raise my hat (prob­a­bly a lev­oya hat) to a man I once saw at the Nosh­erie in Hatton Gar­den. His friends were wel­com­ing him back af­ter his third heart at­tack. What was he go­ing to or­der? A plate of fatty salt beef and latkes!

There are many rea­sons why the Jewish pop­u­la­tion is de­creas­ing, not least Jewjons giv­ing way to gou­jons. Maybe the com­mu­nity that prays to­gether stays to­gether but I think the com­mu­nity that fresses to­gether presses to­gether.

My grand­mother (and ev­ery­body else’s) used to make a four-course meal of chicken and chicken by-prod­ucts — chopped liver, chicken soup with knei­d­lach, chicken, and lock­shen pud­ding made with schmaltz. How can Delia and Jamie com­pete with that? But Jews have be­come food cit­i­zens of the world and some Jewish foods have be­come world foods. A bril­liant ad cam­paign in New York a cou­ple of decades ago had pic­tures of a Chinese child and a Na­tive Amer­i­can eat­ing. The copy line was You Don’t Have To Be Jewish To Love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye.

Some­times Jewish food is the only an­swer. At Lord’s on the last day of the First Test against In­dia, a lit­tle eat­ing sechel made my day. While thou­sands queued at the rather ques­tion­able burger stands at the ground, I slipped out to Harry Mor­gan’s in St John’s Wood High Street and had a lunch of chicken soup with ev­ery­thing, fol­lowed by salt beef. It re­ally set me up for the af­ter­noon. Had the In­dian bats­men done the same they might have made a bet­ter fist of things and if they’d gone for fried gefilte fish and chrane per­haps the Eng­land short-leg field­s­men would have re­fused to stand so close.

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