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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Shalom And All That

One year during Passover when I was in high school my dad suddenly felt bad that he wasn't raising me to care about my Jewish heritage so he made me eat gefilte fish. Really, my dad was the only Jewish person present in our neat little nuclear family and even his faith had lapsed over the years. My mother, raised Catholic but staunchly opposed to most of its tenets*, was adamant that I be raised without religion, that I could select one for myself when I grew up, if I so chose.

Having been taught to be nice to people, share, and respect the laws of karma, I've never really found a need to adopt a formal religion. I maintain a slightly embarrassing faith in astrology, and over the years have cobbled together a personal sort of cosmology dictated by the stars, having grown up in the woods and having being raised by two people for whom religion basically equaled guilt.

But back to the gefilte fish. I am convinced that only a true Jew can truly be down with this combination of whatever it is (white fish and gelatin?). Alas, my palate is too diluted with goyim blood. In fact, I would surmise that in some circles, crotchety old Jewish grandmothers (not unlike mine, may she rest in peace) probably serve up awesome portions of the stuff to the significant others of their grandchildren just to see if they can hang.

My dad seemed truly disappointed that I turned my nose up at his gefilte fish, asking instead for a nice bagel with cream cheese and lox (see? It's not like I wasn't trying!). At 16 years old, it was simply too late for me.

Like the nationalities that comprise my background, I am a religious mutt. When meeting me, people see my long curly brown hair and petite frame and automatically make assumptions. They learn my last name and they believe that their theories are confirmed. But belying my appearance is a heritage composed of many other faiths and human ordeals. While my father's family once fled Russia to escape the Tsar, my mother's family's presence in the states goes back many centuries. I can honestly say that I am related to both a Beat Poet and an American President.

The point of all this is to say that this month, in this time of major religious observation for many, I will instead pay homage to my family's eccentric little melting pot. I'll drink Guinness with my lox, wear all black, and look for a way to enact my manifest destiny fantasies. I can't annex Mexico, but maybe I can take over my roommates room or something.

*Except for sins of omission. She was big on harping about those, which became a huge problem for me come adolescence when I would attempt to cover up a transgression by simply not telling her about it.

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Blogger Ryane said...

HAHAHAHAHAHA. HP, that was hilarious. I love...annex your roomate's room...=-)

3:42 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Things and people are never what they appear to be. Beat poets and presidents. Gefilte fish gagging. That reminds me. How went April Fool's?

4:03 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

So does your beat poet heritage inform your blogging? :)I

Heh, I had a roommate in college who decided he should be eating gefilte fish. He bought a jar of the stuff and put it on the shelf in our fridge.

In general I am grossed out by fish anyway, but the gefilte fish looked really hideous. The worst thing was, he never got around to eating it, so it sat in the fridge for months. When summer neared and he moved out, I lifted it gingerly out of the fridge by the lid and tossed it down the trash chute. I was afraid by that point to even look at it for fear of what it might have mutated into.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Average Jane said...

If my jewishness was judged by the food I ate, I'd be catholic for sure. Lox - no thanks. Gefilte fish - *gags*. Manischewitz - not that's some shit I can get behind =)

Happy Passover, y'all!

5:44 PM  
Blogger Fiery Nuggets said...

Gefilte fish should not be consumed unless prepared by an actual Jewsih grandmother who is on site to atest to its authenticity. That said, the only kind of gefilte fish I've ever had is my grandmother's, and I like it. I would never eat the stuff in the jar. A thing called "fish jelly" should not exist.

6:35 PM  
Blogger EJ Takes Life said...

I'll manifest your destiny.

Sorry. It had to be done.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Frankly, Scarlett said...

I only ate the stuff once - i was dating a jewish guy in college and wanted to prove that i was all 'culturally aware'.


8:01 PM  
Anonymous 123Valerie said...

I'm the dunce that sends out astroweather updates for my very corporate supervisors, so you know I've got your back on that.

Ditto for the gifilte fish, though I always thought it would be neat to decorate a kitchen with gifilte fish jars, along with those jars of peppers and cornichones and stuff.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Michael J. West said...

Astrology? Bastardized cosmology? Forget it. The true guiding force in your life has nothing to do with stars, Walden, or guilt. What's really important is this: What was the Number One song on the charts when you were born?

Unfortunately, HP, in your case it was "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be All Right)" by Rod Stewart. Sorry.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

When I let my hair grow long into an "Irish fro" people say I can pass for Jewish.

I try this when applying for certain jobs.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Brisket, I can get down with. Matzah, I am not opposed. Gifelte fish, I will never ever try...and I eat Spam.

7:06 PM  

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