Yiddish & Danish (Y & D) is a video glossary of Yiddish words and expressions. Pull up a seat and meet some Yiddish speakers.  Shtetl brings yummy danish into their homes, and they bring Yiddish words and expressions into yours. Click on a word and learn what chutzpa really means.  Or, go to the expressions page before your next dinner party and practice saying “Zol er lebn; ober nit lang” (He should live…but not long!). Thank you to Halifax-based band Gypsophilia for the background music in these clips.

More Yiddish words and expressions will be added regularly.

If you disagree with an explanation, please leave a comment. Y & D is a place to learn, to kibitz and to exchange. Ok, genug. Go grab a danish and learn Yiddish already!

4 Responses to Words

  1. Why The Fish Was In the Bathtub & Other Parts of the Fish Story

    Carp is a bottom feeder. When carp was still wild rather than farmed, its flesh tended to taste muddy because of its natural habitat. To prevent the gefilte fish from tasting like old river bottom, the carp was kept alive and swimming in clean water for several days during which time the fish cleansed itself of the mucky scent.

    A trustworthy fishmonger would keep the carp in large tanks of fresh water for the requisite number of days. If the fishmonger was not reliable, the carp went home alive and lived in the bathtub until the fateful day. The bathtub route was definitely the more difficult. A carp, especially one of any useful size, is strong and tough. It is not easy to kill. Cleaning the skin of a carp is no laughing matter either (industrial goggles and a rubber apron would be appropriate apparel, and serious scrapers and hoses would help), and that may be partly why gefilte fish stopped being gefilt.

    Gefilte fish really did start out stuffed into its own skin. Filleting fish to keep the skin intact without losing any of the flesh is a difficult task, and handling and cooking a whole filled fish skin almost as difficult unless one has a long fish kettle, an accoutrement not common in the Jewish kitchens of my grandmothers’ era. My father’s mother compromised by stretching and “stuffing” pieces of skin rather than an entire fish skin. (Given the size of the carp, a gargantuan kettle would have been needed to cook it whole.) Even this operation required care in filleting as well as care in shaping. It is much easier to drop roughly rounded shapes of gefilte fish mixture into the cooking liquid than it is to control the placement of the same mixture formed into the shape of a slice of fish. Perhaps that is why my father’s mother’s gefilte fish was firmer, denser, and heavier than my mother’s mother’s.

    My paternal grandmother also sometimes placed a carp bone across the bottom of the “slice” probably as much for stability as for authenticity. I never saw a piece of skin on my maternal grandmother’s gefilte fish. On my father’s side, as one might expect, the fish was shaped as if it were a thick and wide slice of carp, whereas on my mother’s side, the gefilte fish pieces were round, and each one arrived with an almost oval slice of carrot decorating the top where the skin ought to have been. The major difference, though, was that my maternal grandmother used only raw onions in her fish mixture and my paternal grandmother used only cooked onions. Thus the final products were not only of quite different textures but quite different in colour, though not so different in flavour as one might expect. I, of course, use part cooked and part raw onions, and though I shape my gefilte fish a little more cylindrical than round, I do try to keep it light.

  2. too too awesome….I love it! – Marty

  3. “Fleishedicke” with Eva Silverman is the best!

  4. Eva is darling, but it’s fleishig not fleishedicke. She’s right about milchig though. It’s michig, fleishig or pareve.

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