It started with a manifesto.
Jewish delis were closing. Our grandparents were getting too old to cook. Ashkenazi cuisine was perceived as a thing of the past, if perceived as a cuisine at all. We were friends in our 20s and we heard the call. It felt like something big was at stake. We came together with a fresh approach – to create a culinary laboratory where Ashkenazi stories and culinary wisdom from the Old World could be explored and brought into the New.
So, we wrote a manifesto and launched The Gefilteria.
". . . We will take food traditions seriously and reclaim the glory of Ashkenazi food—what it has been and what it can be. . .”
Then we made Gefilte Fish.
Gefilte fish, packaged inside a glass jar on the supermarket shelf, was the symbol of all that had gone wrong with Ashkenazi Cuisine. The dish had been held sacred by generations of Ashkenazi Jews and NO ONE should grow up thinking gefilte fish only comes in a jar.
“[gefilte fish] was once an innovative way to stretch how far one fish could go to feed a family, a powerful symbol of European peasantry . . .”
So we spent a year cooking and reading up on the state of American fisheries. The Gefilteria then produced and sold gefilte fish on a commercial scale, ensuring that no one would ever have to eat the jarred stuff again. The flavor was fresh. The look was beautiful. The fish, high quality and thoughtfully sourced. It tasted great.
But we didn’t stop there. Next up: the whole damn cuisine.
Drawing inspiration from our ancestors, cookbooks, letters and stories of the past, as well as our peers in the culinary world, we began cooking classic Jewish foods from our childhoods (think kugel, chicken soup, blintzes, pastrami, pickles, etc.) and less common dishes too (like fermented tonics, fruit soups, roasted goose, etc.). We took them to the streets of New York, to markets and festivals and art galleries and loft spaces.
Pretty soon we found ourselves front and center in the renaissance of Jewish food taking place across the country. We were cooking dinners, and pop-up restaurants and collaborating with other culinary professionals, bringing these foods to new audiences and presenting them in new contexts.
And now a cookbook.
The excitement was infectious beyond our wildest dreams. Pretty soon our manifesto grew into an entire book, The Gefilte Manifeso, containing recipes and stories that anyone, anywhere could bring home. So our mission continues: to keep the fires burning, and the ovens hot, for generations of Ashkenazi cooks to come.