Before I left New York City, I didn't realize that 75% of the world wasn't Jewish. Well, technically I knew this, but not in any immediate sense. In addition to never having set foot in a Costco prior to moving to Alaska, I had also never had egg nog, green bean casserole, or a jello mold--all favored foods of the hearty mid-westerners and rest-of-America Americans I've met since moving here. I've also now had salmon and halibut 800 ways, as well as Akutaq and seal.
This week it's Passover (a.k.a. Jewish Easter), and I've had a few questions from the gentiles (a.k.a. "goys") in my life about traditional Jewish Passover foods. I'll skip over the Seder Plate since I blogged about that last year, and just get straight to the top 6 Jewish Passover foods served at the dinner itself.
Here's what you need to know. And yes, this is just one person's perspective. It should go without saying (but because this is the internet nothing can ever go without saying) that I do not speak for all of my Semitic brethren on the relative merits of these dishes:
1. Gefilte Fish: Think of this as the hot dog of fish. If you eat it out of a jar (without holding your nose and breath), you're likely to gag SUPER hard, because it looks and tastes like a used contraceptive sponge (remember those?) that's been brined in pickled karp juice for a year, and then coated with a thin slimy skein of cervical mucous. Not a good look. That being said, some Jews in Alaska (a.k.a. "The Frozen Chosen") have made gefilte fish from scratch using Alaskan salmon and halibut and they swear by it. This particular jar was from my mother-in-law's refrigerator and with all due respect to her, I do not recommend it. Just look at the label and consider that this was the BEST photo the Yehuda Gefilte Fish company had, and you'll know why.
2. Matzoh Ball Soup: Aside from being a little bit bland, there's nothing offensive about a bowl of chicken soup and dumplings, which is more or less what matzoh ball soup is. It's good for what ails ya, just like chicken soup should be, and is made with unleavened matzoh meal. (The Jews don't eat leavened bread on Passover, to honor the fact that they had zero time to deal with that shit when fleeing slavery in Egypt back in the day). So instead they eat cardboard bread for a week to honor their ancestors. This soup is innocuous enough and most goys love it. True story: Geoff once told me that Jewish men were known for having gigantic balls (i.e. testicles), but when I tried to confirm that rumor on the Googles, all I came up with was more recipes for matzoh ball soup.
3. Brisket: Now this is the shit. If you're a vegetarian on Passover, I feel supes sorry for you, because brisket is fucking delicious. Think of a pot roast mixed with a Texas barbeque pulled pork situation (except not pork because pork isn't Kosher). The problem with brisket is you have to cook it in a crock pot all day and night until your whole house and everything in it smells like brisket. But it's so tasty that I once witnessed two of my family members (names withheld to protect the innocent) nearly come to blows over who would get to take home leftover brisket. Just saying.
4. Charoset: This is a feature of the Seder Plate but is worthy of its own entry because it just feels so random. It's supposed to represent "mortar" or something, and sometimes tastes like it. The classic version contains apples, walnuts, red wine. It's a little like fermented pie filling or something you'd put on oatmeal maybe. Not bad.
5. Potato Kugel: This is a brick of potato. There's no other way to describe it. Well, maybe there's one other way to describe it: it's sort of like bread pudding married a brick of potato and had a baby named kugel. It comes in a casserole dish and you cut off a hunk and eat it with your brisket. It's all very meat and potatoes and shouldn't be too scary for the goys.
6. Manischevitz Wine: This inexpensive, not very delicious, and indisputably not very fine wine plays a central role in the Passover experience, so all Jews seem to have a soft spot for it despite the fact that it secretly/openly tastes like ass. By no means is this bottle of juice for cork dorks or winning any awards. In my mind, it's simply an opportunity to celebrate the fact that Jewish culture condones drinking, and even considers it a blessing at times, which is good enough for me.