Wine has played an important role in Jewish ceremony and culture throughout the ages. In biblical times the use of wine was obligatory both in public religious functions and for domestic ceremonial occasions. The references to wine as a means of promoting joy, as a sign of the bountiful gifts of providence, and as a token of personal gratitude to the creator are numerous throughout the Bible.
How highly wine is regarded in the Bible may be seen from the fact that in a figurative sense Israel is called a vine. Later the rabbis used wine as a metaphor not only to represent Israel but also the Torah, the Messiah, and holy men. In the Talmud it is stated that in the world to come the righteous will drink wine from the grapes grown during the days of creation. The greatest blessing in the conception of the Hebrew people, the blessing of peace, is represented by the picture of a man resting under his vine and fig tree. Abundance of wine is in the Bible an indication of prosperity, and to offer bread and wine to a guest is a sign of friendship and hospitality.
The rabbis held that taken in moderation wine is not only a healthful stimulant but is possessed of great curative properties, the best of all medicines. However, drunkeness was strictly forbidden. It was the custom in Talmudic times to give ten cups of wine to mourners with the "meal of consolation".
The use of wine has been continued at religious functions in the synagogue and in the Jewish home on all festive occasions to this very day.
When I asked my mother for a blintze recipe, not only did she send a recipe, but a paper pattern, numbered, so I would know exactly how to fold my dough.
When my grandmother made kreplach for Shavuot, she would wrap a dish towel around the pot and put it to bed, under the pillow, to keep the kreplach warm. You might call that the earliest microwave oven!
A poor man ran in haste and told his wife breathlessly, "I've just been to see the richest man in town and I found him at dinner eating blintzes. As I stood there and smelled their delicious fragrance, the juices in me began to work. Those blintzes certainly must taste wonderful! Believe me when rich men eat something, it's something." Then the poor man sighed longingly. "Oh, if I could only taste blintzes just once!"
"But how can I make blintzes? I need eggs for that," answered his wife.
"Do without the eggs," her husband advised.
"And I'll need cream."
"Well, you'll have to do without the cream."
"And you think sugar doesn't cost money?"
"You'll have to do without the sugar, then."
The wife then set to work and made the blintzes, but without eggs, cream and sugar.
With a judicious air the husband started to eat them, chewed them slowly and carefully. Then suddenly a look of bewilderment came into his face. "Let me tell you, Sarah," he murmured, "for the life of me, I can't see what those rich people see in blintzes!"
In Jewish homes chicken has become the accepted Sabbath and holiday main dish. This tradition probably began in times of stress when accessibility and economy were prime factors.
The Jewish housewife has been taught by her mother through the ages how to utilize all parts of the chicken in various tasty recipes, always keeping economy in mind.
Only the young tender chickens were roasted, but Mother had a method for the tougher birds. These were usually used to make chicken soup, or cut up and stewed in a fricazee. Nothing was wasted; the giblets were added to the fricazee or put into a stuffing which made the meal go further. And who hasn't tasted a slice of helzel smothered with gravy? Would you think that was once a scrawny piece of neck skin? Chopped liver and its French counterpart pate de fois gras are a gourmet's delight. Mama started it all because she just couldn't bear to throw away any part of the chicken. And even the chicken fat is rendered and treasured by the Jewish housewife down to the last precious drop!
An old Jewish woman on Essex Street stuck her hand into the brine of a pickle barrel and fished out a large pickle. "How much is this pickle?" she asked.
"A nickel," answered the dealer.
"A nickel is too much," she said and put the pickle back into the barrel.
She fished in the barrel again and came up with a little pickle.
"How much is this little pickeleh? she asked in a tender voice.
"That pickeleh?" answered the shop-keeper, just as tenderly.
"Only a nickeleh!"
Once a proposal of marriage was brought to a man who was simple minded. Poor fellow! He had no idea how to behave in the company of others. And so, in order to save him from embarrassment, his father, who was a man of the world, cautioned him as follows: "When you visit the bride for the first time you no doubt will not know what to talk to her about. Therefore, if you want to make a good impression on her, here's my advice. First, begin talking about love. Then you can touch on family affairs. You can wind up with a little philosophy."
The groom nodded gravely and replied that he understood perfectly. Then, with his father's blessings he went off to make his first call on his intended.
At first he felt great constraint because the girl's parents were present, but when they left from motives of delicacy, he relaxed somewhat. Then, remembering his father's counsel, he suddenly asked the girl, "Do you love noodles?"
"Sure," she answered in surprise, "Why shouldn't I love noodles?"
After a moment of silence, he continued, "Do you have a brother?"
"No, I have no brother."
The groom rejoiced-- he had safely weathered his father's first two instructions, had talked about love and family matters. Now he still had to philosophize a bit. "Kaleh," he asked furrowing his brow, "if you had a brother, would he have loved noodles?"
A silly question -- if he had ever tasted THIS lukshen!
A Jewish mother was much distressed over the problem of her young son who was afraid to eat the popular dish known as kreplach. She took the boy to a psychiatrist for consultation. After hearing the case, the doctor said, "Now, Madam, this is very simple. Take the boy home, take him out into the kitchen, and show him how kreplach are made. This should probably eliminate the condition."
Hopefully the mother followed his advice. On the kitchen table she put out a small square of dough beside which was a small mound of prepared chopped meat. "Now," she said, "there is nothing here you should mind." The lad beamed and nodded encouragingly. The mother then put the meat in the center of the dough and folded over one corner. The boy smiled and all seemed to be going well. She folded over the second corner and the third. The boy was nodding, and the experiment seemed to be progressing most favorably. Then she folded over the fourth and final corner; whereupon the boy groaned and muttered ........
What the psychiatrist didn't know was to tell her to try one of our recipes for kreplach. They're guaranteed to not only remove all phobias, but to nurture a life long affection for the luscious dish as well.
Yudel the waggoner, having banished the bad taste of a long journey with a dose of brandy, was immersed in a plate of borscht.
"Yudel," his neighbor Yankel yelled into the kitchen, "something terrible has happened!"
The waggoner continued to eat with intense concentration.
"Yudel, you idiot," cried Yankel, "prepare yourself for bad news. Something terrible, I tell you, has happened!"
Still Yudel ate, unperturbed.
"Yudel," Yankel persisted, "you poor man. Your wife has just died."
The news had no apparent effect.
"How can you eat so calmly?" Yankel rebuked him. "It isn't natural."
"Make no mistake!" The wagonner looked up from his plate for a moment. "When I finish this borscht, will I give a yell!"
Undoubtedly, Yudel must have been eating a nice hot bowl of borscht made from one of our choice recipes!