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Growing Up With Gefilte Fish

Updated on February 13, 2011

I grew up in a very Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. There was nothing really special about it and I’m sure that there are hundreds of neighborhoods just like it all over the US but it was home to me.

My apartment building had 90 units in it. That means that 89 other families lived in the building along with my family. The building was a neighborhood onto itself.

About 95% of the people living in the building were Jewish, possibly more than that. The super wasn’t Jewish. I knew that at a young age because every Christmas my mother would take my sister and myself into his apartment so he and his wife could show off their Christmas tree and give us candy canes.

But mostly the building was a Jewish community. We even had a leader. His name was Mr. Brovendar. I’m positive that Mr. and Mrs. Brovendar had first names but this was our leader and his wife and everyone called them Mr. and Mrs. Brovendar. Never anything else. Never. Even my parents called them Mr. and Mrs. Brovendar.

The building looked to Mr. Brovendar to let us know exactly when the Jewish holiday’s started and ended, especially the Jewish New Year. He would blow his shofar the minute the holiday started and the minute it ended.

For those who don’t know, a shofar is a type of trumpet made from the horn of a ram (male sheep). It is mentioned more than 70 times in the Old Testament of the Bible, and is blown by Jews as part of the observance of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

But when it came to the Passover holiday, the building knew that it was coming because we could all hear Mrs. Brovendar chopping up all the fish to make her famous Gefilte Fish.

The Brovendars lived on the second floor, right across the alley from our first floor apartment. Mrs. Brovendar started chopping the fish early in the morning and continued chopping all afternoon. Then during the evening she would cook the fish. Everyone stood by their window trying to breath in the delicious aroma of the fish cooking.

Now don’t expect to ever see a gefilte swimming around in the ocean or a lake. You can’t catch it with a fishing rod either. Gefilte fish is a Jewish snack made of ground fish (carp, mullet, whitefish, pike), egg whites, matzoh meal (wheat flour and water), onions and salt. Usually served chilled, sometimes with horseradish. It’s best with horseradish. My mom used to serve it with lettuce and carrots.

Not all Jewish people make their own gefilte fish. It’s hard work and so much easier to buy a jar of Manischewitz gefilte fish. Gefilte fish from a jar is mighty good but no where near as good and Mrs. Brovendar’s.

Honestly, gefilte fish is somewhat of an acquired taste. It’s kind of strange in a way and not all people like it, not even all Jews, but I love it. Once you get used to the taste there’s nothing better. I was lucky. I was born adoring gefilte fish. It’s so good.

My very young years are filled with memories of my family, my neighborhood, my building, and the sound of Mrs. Brovendar chopping the fish to make her famous gefilte fish.

It’s surprising how a certain noise or a smell brings back all those memories.

Interested in making your own gefilte fish? Here’s a good site where you can find quite a few different ways of making it.

Good luck!


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    • Sara Hannah profile image

      Sara Hannah 6 years ago

      Thank you, Caltex.

    • caltex profile image

      caltex 6 years ago

      Nice article! Voted up!

    • Sara Hannah profile image

      Sara Hannah 6 years ago

      Thanks C :)

    • profile image

      C_Gautreaux 6 years ago from New Orleans

      Love this! Keep these stories coming!

    • Sara Hannah profile image

      Sara Hannah 6 years ago

      Thank you Cybersupe and Bethnyc. I'm really glad that the two of you enjoyed my Hub and hope that it brought back some memories.

      And yes, Brooklyn is the birth place of America and gefilte fish with carrots is wonderful. Cans, jars, home made - it's all good. No gefilte fish in Holland, Bethnyc? :)

      Frozen brisket - Jewish food, don't get me started.

    • profile image

      bethnyc 6 years ago

      We are a Jarred Gefilte fish family... delish with Horseradish and a little carrot on top.. my mother even brings a few cans of it to Holland for Passover when we visit my brother at that time.. and yes, we bring a frozen brisket too!

    • CYBERSUPE profile image

      CYBERSUPE 6 years ago from MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

      Brooklyn the birth place of America. Excellent Hub