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Op Ed: Clinton Emails Raise Gefilte Fish Issue

May 202016
 
 By , May 20, 2016

One gefilte fish lover’s effort to treat the whole matter with the seriousness it deserves.

Many American Jews enjoyed gefilte fish at this year’s Passover Seder, but they are concerned that some reporters have been engaging in outrageously shocking slanders of the dish and of those who love it, simply because of a reference to it in some of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Gefilte FishThis obnoxious offensiveness was taken to new heights when one of them compared gefilte fish to cat food, which makes one wonder how he learned what cat food tastes like.

It is a fact that many people love the Ashkenazi Jewish dish, and regard it is a culinary achievement of the collective creativity of east European Jews.

Yet, some reporters have ignorantly assumed that everyone finds gefilte fish an objectionable food. This reflects their lack of even informal research and their own narrow-minded view of foods that one can’t get at Burger King or a high end Italian restaurant. My guess is that they also don’t like pickled herring, which many Scandinavians, Jews, and Poles always look forward to eating.

When ignorant reporters insult all of us who love this delicacy, they aren’t funny, they are depressing. They know nothing, not even that there is gefilte fish made from whitefish, as well as carp, or that horseradish is the perfect accompaniment to it, as hollandaise sauce is to asparagus, and as mustard is to a Chicago hot dog.

The deli is already on the way out. Next thing you know you won’t be able to find gefilte fish and another item of the world’s cultural heritage, of the great achievements of the human race, will vanish.

The responsibility for this will fall on these reporters and others of their ilk who cannot imagine that there are people who have a passionate love for this delicious dish.

The parochialism of these reporters, and those who unreflectively accept their views, keeps all of them from developing a cosmopolitan sophisticated palette, which includes folk and high culture culinary accomplishments. A false cosmopolitanism and snobbishness never finds great expressions of cultural genius emerging from the lowly and the oppressed.

No good gefilte fish will be found sitting on plates after the Passover service is over in my house.

We connoisseurs do not pass up the opportunity to enjoy gefilte fish or say, caviar or champagne. As Hamlet remarks, one cannot expect the general, the ignorant, to appreciate caviar and the same is true of gefilte fish, although it emerged from the creative genius of Jewish folk — and sadly in our day to be mocked by the uninformed.

Is this what our world has come to?

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Jerry Hirsch

Jerry Hirsch is professor emeritus of history at Truman State University in Kirksville, where he pursues research on American cultural history. He wrote "Portrait of America: The Federal Writers’ Project and American Culture" (2003). Jerry left Chicago after high school and hasn’t been back except to visit. Nevertheless he has remained a lifelong suffering Cubs fan. Ever optimistic, he thinks the time of suffering has ended and that he and his Cubs will soon enter the promised land.

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