Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gefilte Fish

With Peysekh (Passover) just around the corner, AHEYM begins regular Wednesday postings with some very timely content: heymishe (homey) recipes for gefilte fish. While Manischewitz may have you believe that gefilte fish consists of the bland gray ovals in their gleaming glass jars, Evgeniia Krasner from Shpikov, Ukraine, will tell you how it's really done. Yes, for that tam gan-eydn (heavenly taste) you do need to gut the fish yourself and, as Evegniia so poetically puts it, "creep your hand under the skin to take out the meat."

Est gezunterheyt! (Eat in good health!)

At the end of the clip, Evgeniia states in no uncertain terms that she prefers her gefilte fish savory, but she also knows of people who make theirs sweet. This distinction goes deeper than simply being a matter of personal preference -- scholars have discovered that there are discrete geographical areas in which each type of fish is prepared.

The "gefilte fish line" that divides the sweet from the savory regions of Europe happens to trace almost precisely the line that divides the Central Yiddish dialect (spoken primarily in the region corresponding to present-day Poland) from the Southeastern and Northeastern dialects (spoken primarily in the regions corresponding to present-day Ukraine and Lithuania/Belarus, respectively). As the Yiddish linguist Marvin Herzog, among others, has noted, "sweetened fish, also called pojliše fiš 'Polish fish', is generally unpalatable to those east of the indicated [dialect] border, who prefer their fish seasoned only with pepper" (The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History, 1965).

Gefilte fish recipes from other towns

--Asya Vaisman


  1. zeyer a shtarke meynung vegn matzo meal!

  2. Could you comment on how she moves in and out of two languages?