This is my most daring food taste-test yet (read my first two posts here and here). Since Passover is just days away, I invited four children (two of them mine) to sample four different types of gefilte fish. You can probably imagine the faces and comments that came my way during the afternoon (but you don’t have to, since I captured them all here!). Truth be told, it was actually not much different from a normal dinner at my house, which generally includes protesting, bribery, whining and, ultimately, someone crying (sometimes me).
Before we get to the taste-test, let’s review how gefilte fish even made it to our Passover table to begin with. I mean, weren’t we wandering in the desert? My research tells me that gefilte fish is historically an Ashkenazi Shabbat delicacy, but apparently through ingenious marketing eventually found its way to many Jewish lifecycle events and holidays, including Passover. (I’m so glad cow tongue is usually reserved for bar/bat mitzvah onegs.)
Gefilte fish usually comprises one or two different kinds of ground-up fish, along with matzo meal, onion, vegetables, eggs and spices. Some recipes are sweet and others are savory. And, according to this article: “Fish, the ancient sages trumpeted, was an aphrodisiac. They believed the intoxicating odor on the Sabbath table would encourage couples to ‘be fruitful and multiply’—which in Jewish tradition is encouraged on Friday night.” (Don’t worry; fish is certainly not how I got pregnant.)
But back to the kids! My daughter, Dalya, 3, loves to eat fish. She particularly loves salmon, which, for some reason that is not at all clear to me, she calls “ham.” My son, Solomon, 5, seems to be following my childhood relationship with seafood, grudgingly picking at it and whining the entire time he’s forced to eat it.
Overall their reactions, and those of Jacob and Hannah, both 4, are pretty much what you’d expect: disgust and pure horror. Since Solomon and Jacob just weren’t going to try the gefilte fish as easily as Dalya and Hannah, we, as parents, did what we sometimes do best: bribe for bites. We promised ice cream afterward, which Dalya and Hannah certainly earned. As for Solomon and Jacob, the taste-test was so torturous they earned it in a different way—through parental guilt.
I’ll admit that I had high hopes for Dalya since she loves fish and was already hungry. On our walk to meet the other kids, she was literally about to have an epic meltdown because she “wanted gefilte fish right now!” Once everything was set up, she dug in and started strong. Let’s explore this short, albeit semi-torturous, tasting.
We started with homemade gefilte fish from The Butcherie in Brookline. It was savory and smelled delightful. Dalya initially went to town with this one. She said: “This is yummy! It tastes like a lollipop.” (Sorry, but that’s a lollipop I never want to eat!) But three bites later, she pushed it aside because “some of it was touching the horseradish, and I hate horseradish.” (She’s not big on spicy foods.) Hannah also had a few bites and declared it to be “yummy,” but soon ran away.
At first Solomon and Jacob did what I asked them to do: touch, smell and then taste the fish. Unfortunately they didn’t get to the “taste” part so easily. Solomon ended up creating parsley trees with the gefilte fish as the soil. Jacob was only interested in eating the parsley. (But at least they were eating something green, right?!)
Next was Kedem Gefilte Fish. When I opened the jar, I noticed an overwhelming fishy smell. Since I personally wouldn’t eat this, I had low expectations for the kids. And they did exactly what I thought they would do: smell it, push it aside and declare that “it’s yucky and I hate it!” Dalya took one bite, gave me a “this is gross” face and pushed the plate aside. She then grabbed the homemade gefilte fish and took another bite. Hannah took a small bite and gave the plate a big push away. The verdict? Not at all interested.
Next came Kedem Tilapia Gefilte Fish. The label touts this fish as “gourmet.” The boys refused to try it. Jacob declared: “It smells like goats and I hate it! It’s disgusting!” The girls each took a bite; Dalya pushed it away but Hannah said she liked it. In fact, she proclaimed it to be her favorite so far.
Last was Manischewitz Whitefish & Pike in Liquid Broth. Hannah was the only one to actually try this. Even though she said “yummy” for the camera, after the picture she quickly said “yuck!”
So, there you have it. Dalya apparently loved the homemade version from The Butcherie, while Hannah liked the tilapia version. For Jacob, gefilte fish equals goats, so he’s not a fan, and Solomon was more interested in using the fish as a base for parsley trees. On the drive home, he commented several times that his “hands smell like fish, yuck!” (I hope I didn’t scar him too much.)
If your child eats fish already, I would suggest having them try one of the sweeter options during the Passover seder. For non-fish eaters, I don’t think it’s worth the fight. Sure, you can ask them to try it, but I wouldn’t force it. After all, there are lots of delicious foods at the seder table that kids will more likely enjoy.