Everyone who knows me knows that I am an extremely picky eater. I hate onions. I don’t eat stuff that has bits of things because who knows what’s in there. I don’t like any kind of Asian food whatsoever. All that ginger and lemongrass is disgusting, and miso soup literally makes me nauseous. When I was a kid, it irritated my mom to no end that I didn’t like Chinese food. That is probably why I disliked it. But we’d go to a Chinese restaurant and they would have a kids menu with “burger” and that was supposed to be OK. Have you ever tasted a “burger” from a Chinese restaurant? Most of us didn’t live to tell.
Forget savory food, I’m even picky about dessert; under no circumstance should fruit or fruit sauce or anything like that ever touch chocolate. It’s unbelievable to me that someone would take a perfectly scrumptious chocolate volcano cake and ruin it completely by putting it on top of a raspberry coulis, whatever the hell that is. That is what I call a felony.
The thing is I don’t get bored eating the same old thing all the time, so I get (way) too much to eat anyway. But going out to eat with me is a nightmare; I have a million questions and ask them to hold this and add that and hey, can I just order off the children’s menu? Bring me a grilled cheese, fries and chocolate milk and I am perfectly content.
I’ve been a picky eater all my life, but as a kid there were foods I just automatically ate and loved and had no idea what I was eating. Sunday mornings, for example, were reserved for bagels and lox. I had no idea in the world that lox was fish; I don’t know what I thought it was, all I knew was that a bagel should have cream cheese, lox, tomato and swiss cheese. Hold the nasty onions.
But Sunday brunch didn’t end there. We ate a lot of something called sable, which as it turns out is some type of fish. I ate whitefish too, and even with FISH right in the name, it never really crossed my mind. Don’t seriously tell me that when you were a kid you thought of tuna fish as a FISH? I don’t believe you—it came out of a can for pete’s sake!
I used to eat creamed herring right out of the jar, as a snack. Do you think my dumb ass knew what a herring was? But the worst of all was gefilte fish; basically gelatinous fish meatballs all glommed together, and in my grandmother’s house, served on a piece of lettuce with horseradish as an appetizer. How yummy does that sound?? All of my grandmother’s holiday meals started with gefilte fish, followed by matzo ball soup. I can only be grateful that “matzo ball” was not another code word for fish.
In addition to gefilte fish, my grandmother sometimes served an appetizer called kishka. I loved it—one of my favorite things. The good news is, it’s not fish. The bad news is that it’s the intestine of some kind of animal, stuffed with something or another. Even knowing that, if my grandmother was alive today and put a plate of kishka in front of me, I would eat the whole thing. It was much more delicious than a stuffed intestine really should be.
Even something as simple as butter could be deceptive. My grandmother always had a jar of schmaltz in the fridge. We used to spread it on matzo, fry eggs in it, you name it. Good news, it’s not fish or intestines. It’s simply rendered chicken fat. Feel better? The American Heart Association took schmaltz off of its Fun and Healthy Ethnic Foods! list the minute they found out what it was.
So now I know the real reason the Jews wandered the desert for 40 years. They were looking for lox, whitefish, sable and herring.