Monday, April 27, 2009

What is a gefilte fish?

Each year as soon as the frost on the Great Gefilte Lakes (located
upstate New York somewhere in the Catskill Mountains) is thin enough
to break the surface, Frum (observant) fishermen set out to "catch"
gefilte fish.

Now unlike your normal fish, gefilte fish cannot be caught with a rod
and a reel or your standard bait. The art of catching gefilte fish was
handed down for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years.

For all I know Moses used to go gefilte fish catching. I'm sure that
the Great Rambam (Maimonides), when he wasn't busy playing doctor,
spent his leisure time Gefilte fishing.

Enough already, you say, so how is it done? Well you go up to the edge
of the lake with some Matzo. Now this is very important!! It has to be
Manischewitz Matzo or the fish will not be attracted. You stand at the
edge of the lake and whistle and say, "Here boy!" "Here boy!" The fish
just can't resist the smell of the Matzo. They come together to the
edge of the lake where they jump into the jars and are bottled on the

You must remember that there are two kinds of gefilte fish. The strong
and the weak. The weak are your standard fish which are in a loose
"broth" (it is actually the lake water). Now the strong are special.
They seem to be in a "jell." These fish are actually imported from the
Middle East where they are caught in the Dead Sea. They have to be
strong to be able to swim through that "jell."

Last year, a well meaning gentleman tried to correct me by stating,
"Reb, shouldn't they be saying 'Here Boychic!'" I didn't have the
heart to tell him that Boychic is a Yiddish word and Gefilte Fish
don't understand Yiddish --only Hebrew and surprisingly, English!
There has been a big debate as to whether to use the Hebrew or English
in the US. With a big break from tradition, shockingly the English is
accepted by almost all Gefilte fishermen. Some still insist on using
the Hebrew and consider the use of "Here Boy" as Reform and not
acceptable. However the Congress of OU Rabbis (who have to be present
at the lakes when the fish are bottled) uniformly accept "Here boy!"

The time of the catch is very important! The fish cannot be caught
before Purim is over or the fish are considered Chumetz! Besides, the
fish know when Pesach is coming, and will not respond to the Matzo
before the proper time.

I am still a little bothered by which end of the fish is the head and
which the tail (not to mention that I am not sure where their eyes
are). This is a small price to pay for the luxury of eating this

Have you ever had the baby Gefilte Fish? Oy, they are so cute that I
feel a little guilty eating them!

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