Gefilte breath is worth it

By David Robson, August 8, 2011
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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.

How can Delia and Jamie compete with that?

"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.

Last updated: 9:17am, August 8 2011