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The Friday 5: Top Jewish Food Sayings

If you've ever been in the care of a Jewish mother–whether yours or someone else's–then surely you're familiar with the words "eat something!" Often delivered with commentary about how you're "too skinny," they're spoken with a salty-sweet mix of love … Read More

By / January 4, 2008

If you've ever been in the care of a Jewish mother–whether yours or someone else's–then surely you're familiar with the words "eat something!" Often delivered with commentary about how you're "too skinny," they're spoken with a salty-sweet mix of love and reproach. It's no secret that Jews love to feed and be fed. My most profound experience with this old phenomenon occurred during a backpacking trek across Russia and Europe, when I dropped in on my sister's friend's grandmother in St. Petersburg. Despite the fact that she didn't know me from Adam (or Eve, for that matter), despite the fact that I didn't speak a word of Russian and she didn't speak a word of English, and despite the fact that her Soviet-era kitchen wasn't much bigger than a port-a-potty, she sat me down at her teeny tiny table and fed me until I nearly exploded. How she did it, I'll never know. It was as if she was pulling food out of thin air. Salads, meats, cheeses, breads, tea, and cake. There had to have been a secret door that I never saw her go through.

In any case, our enduring feeding frenzy has led to some deep culinary thoughts. Here, then, are my top 5 Jewish food wisdoms. Have one of your own? Post it in comments. Oh, yes–and ess gezunterhait, kids. Eat in good health.

That's the way the cookie crumbles. In other words, that's life, folks. Hey, have some fun with phonics! Say it in Yiddish: "Azoy tsebrecht zich dos kichel."

Eat like a bird, shit like a horse. Isn't that lovely? When I ran this one by my aunt, she laughed and said, "That's so Jewish." I can't purport to know what it actually means, but I'm sure it's steeped in profundity. Say it in Yiddish: "Ess vie ein foygl sheise vie ein feirt."

If you're going to eat pork… This saying has a number of different endings, but they all mean the same thing: If you're going to sin, do it right. Enjoy it. Otherwise, what's the point? So, if you're going to eat pork: "…eat the best kind," "…get it all over your beard," "…enjoy it so much that the pork fat drips off your chin."

In a restaurant, choose a table near a waiter. This little nugget is attributed to the legendary Henny Youngman, who is said to have walked into the Friars Club every day for 50 years and asked for "a table near a waiter."

Love is sweet but it's nice to have bread with it. Ain't that the cold, hard truth?

 

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