June 13, 2024
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June 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

This week we address a very serious problem plaguing the Jewish community: soggy gefilte fish. For those who generally enjoy crunch or at least a modicum of texture, the very thought of soggy gefilte fish is a soggy nightmare. Granted, gefilte fish is inherently spongy, squashy and/or squishy to a certain degree, but it should not be soggy just like a challah should not be stale, cholent should not be cold and a mechitza should not be transparent.

Soggy gefilte fish often can be found at a kosher supermarket or similar store that features prepared foods. The soggy gefilte fish sometimes is offered in plastic containers with the gefilte fish virtually floating in a clear, watery residue. In other instances, the gefilte fish is offered in log form and usually the logs are displayed on a wet metal tray and/or wrapped in soggy parchment/wax/paraffin paper. In either case, the gefilte fish remains trapped in perpetual moisture, never having a chance of escaping such unappetizing marshy-ness. One could argue that such soggy gefilte fish is almost as undesirable as dry soup.

Gefilte bogginess boggles the mind because who in their right mind wants soggy gefilte fish? Have you ever heard anyone ask for soggy gefilte fish? Have you ever seen someone complain that the gefilte fish should be soggier? No, you have not because sogginess is anathema to gefilte eaters just like cheese is anathema to the lactose intolerant, London broil is anathema to vegans and expired milk is anathema to cereal eaters. (Speaking of cereal, note that a cereal killer is someone who finishes a box of cereal whereas a serial killer is someone who, for example, kills another person for finishing a box of cereal.)

While disdain for soggy gefilte fish is fairly common, some people actually fear it. However, there is no formal term for such a phobia, which is strange because there are many types of recognized food phobias including mortuusequusphobia (fear of ketchup), arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter), brumotactillophobia (fear of different foods touching each other), mageirocophobia (fear of cooking) and diemeleagrisphobia (fear of Thanksgiving turkey). Since many view soggy gefilte fish as worthless garbage, perhaps a fitting formal name for the fear of soggy gefilte fish would be shtikdrekphobia. (As an aside, guess what hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia means? Ironically, it means fear of long words. Imagine how cruel it would be to have someone with such a fear identify, orally or in writing, the name of this phobia?)

There are several methods for preventing, or at least minimizing, gefilte fish sogginess. Some people caution that you must use only a little water when making gefilte fish and you must cook the fish on a low heat for a very long time until all of the water evaporates. This is the “Low and Slow” method. Some people go the extra step of allowing the gefilte fish to drain in a colander until it cools. This is the “No Drain, No Gain” method. Others wrap the gefilte fish in a paper towel to soak up any excess water. This is the “Towel Well” method. Some extremists, however, refrain from using any water to ensure that the gefilte fish comes out extremely firm. This is the “H2-no!” method.

Does this mean that in order for gefilte to be edible, it cannot be damp? No, because gefilte fish, like a sense of humor, is not always dry. Take, for example, the type of gefilte fish sold in glass jars filled with that cloudy jelly that could fairly be described as edible slime. This gefilte goo envelopes the jarred gefilte fish, permeating every pore and rendering the fish eternally gooey. Some Jews prefer this style of gefilte fish and such a gefilte eater can be referred to as a Goo Jew.

Should there be a penalty or fine for serving your guests soggy gefilte fish? Perhaps. Are there worse infractions than serving soggy gefilte fish? Yes, there certainly are. For instance, it would be worse to serve your guests burnt bourekas, spoiled sufganiyot or tainted tachina. It also would be worse to serve a chicken that is still clucking, a fish that is still squirming or a cow that is still mooing.

Is there ever an appropriate occasion for intentionally serving soggy gefilte fish? Yes, if someone is suffering from xerostomia (dry mouth) or from the fiery effects of eating a bhut jolokia (ghost pepper).

Final thought: If, as they say, “cleanliness is next to godliness,” then “sogginess is next to schluby-ness.”

By Jonathan Kranz

 

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