Return to Main Recipes Page/Return to Home PageGefilte Fish - The Real Story
Many times I have been upset by people who seem to think that gefilte fish is some kind of mixture you make in the kitchen rather than one of Hashem's creatures. This has led me to explain exactly what a gefilte fish is. So once again, here goes.
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 fishermen set out to "catch" gefilte fish. Now unlike your normal fish, gefilte fish can 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 G/F 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 Shmurah 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 en masse to the edge of the lake where they jump into the jars and are bottled on the spot.
Again 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, 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 G/F fishermen. Some still insist on using the Hebrew and consider the use of "Here Boy" as Reform and not Halachicly 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 Chametz! Besides, the fish know when Pesach is coming ,and will not respond to the Matzoh 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 delicacy. Have you ever had the baby G/F? Oy, they are so cute that I feel a little guilty eating them!
Have a great Pesach and hope that the Matzo doesn't affect you like Pepto Bismol or worse yet, prunes!
Posted by Rita Busman