Above: Sidney and his dad on the morning of Sidney’s bar mitzvah, 1954
Sidney Gross (1941–2016)
From Sue: The so called “kosher food section” in a far suburban Chicago supermarket generally consists of little more than boxes of matzoh and jars of gefilte fish. I once asked Sidney if I should buy him some gefilte fish. I was met with a resounding “NO!” The following conversation ensued.
Sidney: I can remember going out on a date with my girlfriend who lived in the Bronx, and we were supposed to go to her house to eat, and her mother served us gefilte fish.
Sidney: She served us the kind with the heads and the tails!
Sue: Oh! Is that why you don’t eat it?
Sidney: That’s right. Because up till that time in my life all the gefilte fish I’d ever eaten came out of a glass bottle, and it was a rather innocuous white ball, and that was all right. But when I got to this girl’s house–it was Passover–what they served was gefilte fish with the heads… STUFFED!
Sue: [Laughing] You mean with the eyes staring out at you?
Sidney: Yeah, yeah…
Sue: Did that upset you?
Sidney: Yeah, I lost my taste for gefilte fish.
Sue: But it must have tasted better than gefilte fish out of a jar, didn’t it?
Sidney: I’m sure it did.
Sue: [Laughing] Is that when you broke up with the girl, after you ate the gefilte fish?
Sidney: After that I was convinced that the reason people ate horseradish with gefilte fish was to hide the taste.
From Sue: Among the many recipes that came my way from Brooklyn in my first years of marriage to Sidney was his mother’s recipe for pitcha [jellied calf’s foot]. My mother-in-law told me this was one of Sidney’s dad’s favorite foods. To say that I looked at this recipe dubiously is to put it mildly. Finally, I showed it to Sidney. His response: “NO!!!” Sidney proclaimed he would walk out on me if I cooked pitcha. He said just the mention of it made him remember the way the apartment stank when his mother cooked this dish, and as far as he was concerned pitcha looked awful and tasted even worse than it smelled. As a kid, he could never fathom why his father liked it so much. So much for the generation gap in food tastes.
So, I’ve never made nor tasted pitcha. But I thought I’d honor tradition and post Esther’s recipe… I have no way of knowing. It might be delicious… (for the recipe, turn the page…)
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