The Gefilte Manifesto
In today’s reality, most families don’t store a live carp in the bathtub before the holidays anymore, or spend all day preparing labor-intensive foods. Under the banner of convenience, the past several decades have seen treasured food traditions stuffed into jars and neglected, gefilte included.
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. The canned variety, by contrast, is a poignant reminder of how far we’ve strayed from the old days, so much so that gefilte has become synonymous with the outdated, the gray, the antiquated and the Old World.
But we need not accept the extinction of this tradition, or of the robust, colorful, fresh flavors of Ashkenazi cuisine. We know that gefilte—like Borscht and kvass and so many Old World foods—is excellent when done right. It comes down to the basics of quality, freshness, care and creativity.
Gefilte is not just about your bubbe. It is not about kitsch or a foodie revolution. Gefilte is about reclaiming our time-honored foods and caring how they taste and how they’re sourced. It is about serving a dish with pride, and not simply out of deference to hollow convention. It is about taking food traditions seriously and reclaiming the glory of Ashkenazi food—what it has been and what it can be.
We of The Gefilteria plan to bring our foods out of the jar and back to the street, to the pushcarts where we began, to the flavors of the people.
(The Gefilte Manifesto is a forthcoming cookbook by Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern, to be published by Flatiron Books in 2016)