My husband howled with laughter.
He does that only when he’s reading New Yorker cartoons or watching “Seinfeld” reruns. This time it was neither. It was something on Facebook.
“You’ve got to see this,” he said, almost in tears.
Someone had posted a link to BuzzFeed’s video of “The Jewish Food Taste Test.” It consisted of a panel of gentiles tasting Jewish food for the first time.
My Jewish husband laughed hysterically.
His Catholic wife nodded along with the panel in solidarity. I could once relate to them.
First, item on their plates: gefilte fish. The name even sounds like a punch line.
I have never figured out exactly if that thing is a fish dumpling or the equivalent of a meatball made out of fish. Either way, that pasty ball of grey makes me grateful that I’m a vegetarian.
“It’s like cold sausage with sour paste on top,” one panelist said.
“I’m not quite sure what meat it is,” said another.
“It tastes like a grocery store smells,” one added.
Kugel was next. The fun fact posted on the video said, “Chasidic interpretation of kabbalah mysticism claims that kugel has special power.” I believe it. Our son Ben makes it every Thanksgiving and it’s gone before anyone has touched the turkey stuffing.
“It’s like an apple pie pasta,” a panelist proclaimed.
“I feel like it wants to be macaroni and cheese and it also wants to be a cake,” another said. “It just doesn’t know which one it is.”
Who cares? It tastes great.
On to matzah ball soup. Did you know the biggest matzah ball ever created was 29.2 inches big? The world record is held by Noah’s Ark Deli.
“I would eat this all day,” one said. “This is like the gateway drug to Jewish food.”
Chopped liver was next. It’s a bit impolite to repeat the words the panelists used to describe it. Yes, it looks disgusting, but you already know that. My husband loves it. He considers it a delicacy. It’s his comfort food. His mom used to make a batch, fill an empty glass jar with it and hand it to him with a spoon to eat.
When my husband turned 60 last month, our youngest son brought him a birthday gift from New York City: A big container of chopped liver. It was still cold from the ice pack. How did he get it through security? The TSA people just shrugged.
Rugelach was next for the taste test. The video fun fact said the word comes from the Yiddish word rugel, which means royal. The panelists couldn’t get enough, and said: “This is great … oh my God … I like the flaky pastry outside and it has a lot of fun on the inside.
The panelists did a little wine tasting next with a bottle of Manischewitz. My favorite pronunciation they gave was this: Manny Schwites.
They swished the wine around in huge glasses, sipped and said, “Smells good … a little vinegary… delicious … it tastes like a hangover.”
So far, nearly 1.3 million people have watched the video.
I think they should create a second one, but this time with better options, like challah. Who doesn’t like challah? My friend Sandy makes one so fluffy inside and crusty on the outside, it tastes like dessert.
Include latkes. If more people tried potato pancakes, they would kick French fries off the menu. Latkes don’t even need catsup or salt. Or applesauce. Or sour cream. But they taste great with all of the above. They’re crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. Is this a Jewish theme to food?
Then there’s the blintz. How do you describe one? It’s thicker than a French crepe but thinner than a pancake. They come with everything from blueberries to cheese. I’ve actually never tasted one because every time my friend Beth serves them, they disappear too fast.
Macaroons, the unofficial cookie of the Jewish people, should be included in a taste test. Especially the ones dipped in chocolate.
Jewish food grows on you. My first real introduction to Jewish food came while I was dating my husband and we took my daughter to New York City. On our last day there, he promised us one last, great meal. He was so excited. So were we. Until we ended up at Katz’s Delicatessen.
He was in heaven.
We were confused.
There’s a reason that Italian, Mexican and Chinese restaurants are everywhere. And there’s a reason Jewish restaurants aren’t.
The reason? Let’s start with seeing tongue on a menu.
Katz deli boasts that it has survived “three depressions, numerous recessions, and two World Wars” and encouraged parents to “send a salami to your boy in the army.” Sure, it was fun to see the table where actress Meg Ryan moaned and pounded on the table to show Billy Crystal how women fake pleasure during sex. Who can forget that moment Estelle Reiner told the server, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
But we gentiles didn’t know what to order from a menu that offered knoblewurst, knishes and kishka. We needed an interpreter. Despite Meg Ryan’s great fake, we couldn’t even fake loving the food.
That was 20 years ago.
Now we don’t need to fake it. We’re hooked. We love homemade macaroons that don’t even need chocolate, kugel every Thanksgiving and everything bagels for breakfast – with a schmear, of course.