For years, something like this email gets dusted off and transmitted millions of times. I received mine this morning. I got bored so I have embellished and contributed my own personal experiences from long, long ago; when I was a active member of the tribe. I can no longer afford the dues… but they'll welcome me back with open arms if I come up with the arrears plus late fees and interest
If you are not Jewish, I cannot even begin to explain it to you, but being Jewish by birth - I have to try anyway. It's a little like mental Hansen's Disease (Leprosy). You can recover from it, but you will forever be altered by the experience.
Brisket is not the same as Corned Beef!
This goes back two generations, three if you are over fifty. It also explains why many Jewish men died in their early sixties with a occluded cardiovascular system and looked like today's men at eighty-nine.
Before we start, there are some variations in ingredients because of the various types of Jewish taste (Polack, Litvack, Deutch and Gallicianer). Sephardic is for another time, but you can think of them as the Jalapeno Jews. The Ashkenazi's gave us Tay-Sachs and are not distant relatives of the Nazis.
Just as Jews have six seasons of the year (winter, spring, summer, autumn, the slack season and the busy season), we all focus on a main ingredient, which unfortunately and undeservedly has disappeared from our diet. I'm talking of course about that "other" food group, 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 lofty place in our homes. (I have plans to distribute it in a pale blue ground Lalique decanter with a label clearly saying "Low Fat, No Cholesterol, Newman's Choice, EXTRA Virgin SCHMALTZ or something like that." If I market it with a permanent 40% off sticker, it can't miss! Then there are grebenes - pieces of chicken skin, deep fried in SCHMALTZ, onions and salt until crispy brown (like Jewish bacon or micro Pork Rinds). These make a superb appetizer for the next cardiologist's convention, most of which are Jewish anyway.
There's also a nice chicken fricassee (stew) using the heart, gorgle (neck) pipick (gizzard - a great delicacy, given to the favorite child), a fleegle (wing) or two, some ayelech (little premature eggs) and other various chicken innards in a broth of SCHMALTZ, water, paprika, etc. We also have knishes (filled dough) and the eternal question, "Will that be liver, beef or 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 is turned inside out, scalded and scraped. One end is sewn up and a mixture of flour, SCHMALTZ, onions, eggs, salt, pepper, etc., is spooned into the open end and squished down until it is full. The other end is sewn and the whole thing is boiled. Often, after boiling, it is browned in the oven so the skin becomes crispy. Yummy!
For our next course we always had chicken soup with pieces of yellow-white, rubbery chicken skin floating in a greasy sea of lokshen (noodles), farfel (broken bits of matzah), tzibbeles (onions), mondlech (soup nuts), kneidlach (dumplings), kasha (groats), kliskelech and marech (marrow bones) . The main course, as I recall, was either boiled chicken, flanken, kackletten, hockfleish (chopped meat), and sometimes rib steaks, which were served either well done, burned or cremated. Occasionally we had barbecued liver done to a burned and hardened perfection in our own coke furnace.
Since we couldn't have milk with our meat meals, beverages consisted of cheap soda (Kik, Dominion Dry, seltzer in the spritzer bottles). In Philadelphia or New York, it was usually Franks Black Cherry Wishniak (vishnik) or Dr. Brown's Cel Ray...
I personally preferred Dr. Brown's Cream Soda - their Black Cherry soda was used to dye fabric!
Growing up Jewish
If you are Jewish and grew up in city with a large Jewish population, the following will invoke heartfelt memories.
First, the Yiddish word for today is PULKES (PUHL-kees). Translation: THIGHS. Please note: this word has been traced back to the language of one of the original Tribes of Israel, the Cellulites. If a Jewish woman doesn't have prominent PULKES by the age of thirty-five, she began life as a shiksa...gentile...goy...one that buys retail. The exception to this rule applies if she has had "work done" - translation: liposuction or cosmetic surgery. Think of Leona Helmsley or Joan Rivers - they didn't have PULKES!
The only good advice that your Jewish mother gave you was: "Go! You might meet somebody! And put on clean underwear - you could be in a car accident!"
You grew up thinking it was normal for someone to shout "Are you okay?" through the bathroom door when you were in there longer than 3 minutes.
Your family dog responded to commands in Yiddish, not English!
Every Saturday morning your father went to the neighbourhood deli (called an "appetitizing store") for whitefish salad, whitefish "chubs," lox (Nova if you were rich), herring, corned beef, roast beef, pastrami, cole slaw, potato salad, a 1/2-dozen huge barrel pickles (which you reached into the brine for), a dozen assorted bagels, cream cheese and rye bread (sliced while he waited). All of which would be strictly off-limits until Sunday morning.
Every Sunday afternoon was spent visiting your grandparents and/or other relatives.
You experienced the phenomenon of 50 people fitting into a 10-foot-wide dining room hitting each other with plastic plates trying to get to a deli tray. And miraculously, like the Hannukah light burning for seven days, no tray was ever completely empty. There was always a tiny sliver of pickled herring left or a demitasse spoonful of chopped liver remaining after the onslaught had fallen back into the plush sofas, all covered in quarter inch thick plastic that you stuck to in the summer like you painted your tuchas (ass) with Gorilla Glue. The living room always looked like a scene of a pod of beached blue whales after the meal, with bloated bodies littering every upholstered furnishing except the ottomans (too small for anything but a dolphin and there were none of those present).
All the men coughed like they were in the death throes of a tubercular paroxysm. You didn't know there was that much phlegm in the galaxy or understand why they didn't drown.
By ancient tribal mandate, a Jewish man over the age of fifty must pull his pant beltline up to at least his nipples; it is alleged higher status could be achieved if he could reach the Adam's apple.
You had at least one female relative who pencilled in eyebrows which were always asymmetrical.
You thought pasta was stuff used exclusively for Kugel and kasha with bowties.
You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven and you were as tall as your grandfather by age seven and a week.
You had a least one uncle that was still chewing on the same cigar he had in his mouth last Passover.
You never knew anyone whose last name didn't end in one of 5 standard suffixes (berg, baum, man, stein and witz).
You were shocked to discover that REAL wine doesn't actually taste like cranberry sauce blended with Robitussin.
You can look at gefilte fish and not turn green. No there is no such thing as a "gefilte" fish - it's really pike.
When your mother smacked you really hard, she continued to make you feel bad for hurting her hand.
You can understand Yiddish but you can't speak it. You know how to pronounce numerous Yiddish words and use them correctly in context, yet you don't know Exactly what they mean. Kaynahurra. (kanainah hora; as in "don't attract the evil eye," You say it when you say something positive or like "God Forbid.")
You're still angry at your parents for speaking both Yiddish and English to you when you were a baby.
You have at least one ancestor who is somehow related to your spouse's ancestor.
You thought speaking loud was normal and NO TVs in Jewish homes had a volume control.
You considered your Bar or Bat Mitzvah a "Get Out of Hebrew School Free" card. And I used it!
You think eating half a jar of dill pickles is a wholesome snack.
You're compelled to mention your grandmother's "steel cannonballs" upon seeing fluffy matzo balls served at restaurants.
You buy 3 shopping bags worth of hot bagels on every trip to Stamford Hill or Edgware and carefully shlep them home like glassware. (Or, if you live near Chigwell, Manchester or another Jewish city hub, you drive 2 or 3 hours just to buy a dozen "real" bagels.) Western Bagel and Brent's in the San Fernando Valley... Factor's or Canter's Deli in West L.A. Or Katz's in NY.
Your mother or grandmother took personal pride when a Jew was noted for some accomplishment (showbiz, medicine, politics, etc.) and was ashamed and embarrassed when a Jew was accused of a crime as if they were relatives. Bernie Madoff is like our Charles Ponzi (we already had Meyer Lansky and Arthur Flegenheimer (Dutch Schultz), the mobsters).
You learned that the only acceptable way to confirm your safe arrival to your destination on a trip was to call home, person-to-person and ask for yourself.
You thought only non-Jews went to sleep-away colleges. Jews went to city schools, unless they had academic scholarships or made an Ivy League school. Certainly, no one you ever heard of since Hank Greenberg could have secured an athletic scholarship - they don't give out athletic scholarships for Ping-Pong.
Your wealthy New York cousins always went to the "mountains" for two weeks in the summers. THINK "Dirty Dancing," the movie. Those mountains - are there any others? No Hebrew would schlep up a real mountain… maybe accept being carried by Sherpas if chopped liver (made with REAL SCHMALTZ) was waiting at the summit, but hike? Goyim climb mountains - Jews rent Sherpas and YAKS with a non-refundable deposit. If there is a mountain named after a Hebrew, it's because he owns the alpine resort where it is situated. Exploration to Jews is getting to Loemann's on Black Friday before the doors open!
And finally, you knew that Sunday night and the night after any Jewish holiday was designated for Chinese food. It's written in the Talmud and the inscrutable Orientals know this. It was explained to me that they are associated somehow with the Kabbalah. Note how closely wontons resemble kreplach- that cannot be a coincidence and Hebrews believe extraterrestrials to be as alien as retail. It was told to me the original idea for Chinese fortune cookies was stolen from a deli in Haifa many centuries ago, which used the cookies as a means of delivering the bill for the meal immediately upon removing dishes. I have never been able to objectively confirm this, but I am still reeling from the wonton-kreplach thing.
Zie gezunt!! (like "may it always be so!" but actually "Be healthy - Be well")
So, Jews don't recognize the crucifix, but we certainly have our own crosses to bear!