The Gefilte Fish 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 explains exactly what a gefilte fish is.
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 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 we 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 lake with some Matzoh. Now this is
very important! It has to be Shmurah Matzoh 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 Matzoh. They come in mass 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
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 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 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 Matzoh doesn't affect
you like Pepto Bismol or worse yet, prunes!