Gefilte Fish | March 18, 2021

My heart belongs to the Fourth of July because it’s the day both my son and my nephew were born; however, in terms of actual festivity-related commemoration, my favorite holiday is the Jewish celebration of Passover.  Passover, which kicks off this year at the end of March, is the remembrance of Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt and (after a forty-year desert walkabout) over to the Promised Land.

Considering the story of Moses brings with it a lot of heavy topics – slavery, devastation, mass death, pyramids – Passover is one of our top two jazziest holidays.  It’s basically Jewish Dinner Theater.  It has Singing!  Plagues!  Wine!  Participation by Kids of All Ages!  Hide-and-Go-Seek!  The whole thing centers around The Meal, which we eat while merrymaking about swarms of locusts and a wave of water wiping out the Egyptian army – Yay, Plight!

The Meal is my favorite part of Passover.  While I’m guessing there are plenty of Jews who consume Passover food year-round, I use the eight days of the holiday to stuff in so much related food that I gross myself out of it until the following year.  And speaking of gross, I’d like to tell you about the most disgusting of my favorite Passover foods: gefilte fish.

When you think of universally-beloved foods, they are almost all made up of fish that has been boiled into mush.  Gefilte fish is conglomeration of white-colored fish mush mixed with matzah (a giant cracker eaten at Passover) meal and then smooshed into an oval or loaf shape.  It’s texture can be likened to a moist kitchen sponge and it’s odor is a strong blend of tangy, fishy sweetness – all big selling points when it comes to a gill-based food product.

You can typically find gefilte fish on your grocery store pantry shelves – nothing says meat-based protein like a lack of refrigeration! – stored in its trademark jar.  Gefilte fish is packaged suspended with carrot slices in urine-colored jelly, and there’s nothing like that sluurrrppping sound when you pry out a slab.  I eat mine with red horseradish.

Kyle is not Jewish; he is, however, a real mensch about being Jew-adjacent, especially at Passover.  The Passover seder is a multi-course meal with accompanying stage props, and Kyle has spent many-a-holiday running around Grand Forks in search of boxes of egg matzah and digging through the toy boxes to gather up rubber frogs.  He has participated in every part of the Passover celebration…save for the eating of the gefilte fish.  As is the case with other piscine delicacies such as lutefisk, people who actually consume and enjoy fish on a regular basis have trouble choking down a lump of gefilte fish.  For my dear husband, who will only eat fish if it has been breaded and fried past visual or taste recognition, it ain’t ever gonna happen.

We celebrated one of our first Passovers in our country house with my parents and my aunt, who drove up from Minneapolis and Denver, respectively, for the occasion.  There are a lot of benefits to being Jewish in North Dakota but procuring a large quantity of a wide variety of Passover food isn’t one of them, and so I gave both groups a list of groceries (seriously, red horseradish is really hard to find) so as to fulfill the seder and also sate my holiday palate for the rest of the year.

Kyle and I were setting the table in anticipation for their arrival when I realized that I hadn’t bought or requested any gefilte fish.  No matter, I thought, I’d seen a few jars around town and Kyle hadn’t been out on an errand in at least twenty minutes, and so off he went…only to return an hour later empty-handed.  Every store had been shopped clean.  I called my mom.

“We’re pulling into the driveway!”  She said.  “What’s up?”

I called my aunt.

“You don’t need to buy gefilte fish,” she said.  “We can just make it.”

Before the sun set, my kitchen was covered in groceries and two giant pots of boiling fish.  Kyle sat on a stool, trying to make light conversation without breathing through his nose.

“Here, Mandy,” my aunt said (she’s one of only two people in the world to still call me Mandy, which immediately takes me back to being eight years old, sitting in my grandma’s kitchen, drinking a Coke and eating chocolate chip cookies), handing me a spoon.  “Skim off the fish foam.”

At the word “foam,” Kyle left to take our baby out for a walk.

We made two kinds of gefilte fish – one “regular” and one flavored with salmon – and both were by far the best gefilte fish I’ve ever eaten.  My mom, dad, and aunt had one piece each, and I consumed the entire rest of the loaves.  The house and I smelled like gefilte fish for weeks.  The whole thing was so traumatizing for Kyle that when I buy a jar of gefilte fish now, he hides it in the back of the refrigerator so that he doesn’t have to look at it.  Passover is a week away, which is just the right amount of time for me to test out (my marriage and) my aunt’s gefilte fish recipe once again.

I’m not going to put a picture of gefilte fish on this story because there’s never been a delectable photo taken of gefilte fish at any point in the history of Judaism or photography.  Instead, the photo above is from last year’s Passover seder, which took place right after everything locked down.  I needed a roasted lamb shank bone for the seder plate and there wasn’t one to be had in town, so Kyle drew a little picture and we made fun of it for a minute.  Boom, roasted.

This week’s news has an app for farmland hunting, online art lessons, and Miss Basketball.  Read on.

Montpelier High School has received $15,000 in technology supplies after making it to the semi-finals of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest with their student-led initiative to create an app to make it safer for hunters on area farmland.  If they make it to the finals, they receive a total of $65,000; the national winner will get $130,000. (Valley News Live)

Jamestown’s Myra Klein has held free virtual art lessons for elementary-age kids every weekday since the beginning of the pandemic, and now she has been awarded an extra $1,000 for art supplies to keep her instructions going into the future. (Jamestown Sun)

Dickinson’s Jared Shypkoski has hooked a state record-catching 33”, 16.39lb walleye. (Grand Forks Herald)

KX does a regular featured called “Someone You Should Know,” and this one is particularly nice: a fellow named Cello who is new to Minot. (KX Net)

Congratulations to Hettinger-Scranton’s Sam Oase, winner of North Dakota Miss Basketball!  A fun fact: Sam is the first player from the school to win the award. (KFYR TV)

The headline says it all: New England’s Devin Wert is the SIXTH generation to harvest wheat on his family farm. (GS Publishing)

(Like Amanda Silverman Kosior and/or North Dakota Nice?  Check out last week’s tale about mowing the lawn.)

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