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Something Fishy: Antisemitism or Just an Unbearable Stink?

It's a simple fact of life: If you're not partaking in the meal, other people's fish smells bad.  Not always, but often.  There are other foods in the "if you're not eating them, they stink" category, for example cauliflower, which … Read More

By / October 23, 2007

It's a simple fact of life: If you're not partaking in the meal, other people's fish smells bad.  Not always, but often.  There are other foods in the "if you're not eating them, they stink" category, for example cauliflower, which can reek up to high heaven.  Trust me, my olfactory set-up is unrivaled.  Case in point:

"What's that smell," my mother asked last week, as we walked our dogs together through her dense, urban neighborhood.  She sniffed, she snuffed, she couldn't quite place it.  

"It's a potato knish," I said.  "About two blocks away."  I'd been enjoying its aroma for the past few minutes.  

"You're right," she exclaimed.  "How do you do that?" 

I shit you not.  I can't explain it, it's just the way I'm built.  The nose knows.  That's why I can sympathize with the passengers and flight crew who freaked out about a stinky, stanky fish dinner brought on board a United Airlines flight last week.  The family guilty of bringing the noxious nourishment onto the flight happen to be religious Jews, the meal happened to be kosher, and now the subtle scent of antisemitism is permeating the eternally recirculated air.  

"As you can see, I wear these holy fringes. I wear a kepa. My son wears a kepa," Robert Blum said, according to WBNS-10. "And maybe that's what the steward saw. And I am sure it was. Because why did he single us out?"

Well, buddy–taking into account my aforementioned olfactory superpowers, my guess is that you were singled out because you were stinkin' up the cabin.  We all know how much it sucks when someone subjects their fellow flyers to an unnecessarily foul-smelling meal.  The least you can do is choose something inoffensive.  Malodorous mistakes aside, was the Blum family subjected to unusually rude treatment because of their Judaism? They're claiming that it was a classic case of discrimination: 

"He said, 'I don't want you eating that food on the plane,'" Blum said of a flight attendant, who told him passengers were complaining about the smell of the fish.

"He said, 'I don't want the food on the plane. If you don't trash the food, I'll trash you. You'll get off the plane, you and your wife and your kids,'" said Blum.

Blum said the pilot harassed him about the food as well.

"The pilot says to me, 'are you going to give us any more trouble because I have to worry about 220 passengers smelling your stinking food?'" Blum contended.

The confrontation created a scene on the plane forcing Blum to throw the food away when the pilot threatened to throw the family off the plane.

Sounds like a regular old flight to me.  So, what have we learned?  Kosher fish on a plane is not kosher in the colloquial sense if it stinks.  Flying sucks, but it sucks worse for everyone if you unleash a stench, so choose wisely, and should you opt for the fish, make sure it's fresh.  

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