Some days, we get a lot of junk in our in-box. But a recent invitation to take a short on-line quiz titled What’s Treif? caught our attention. After all, we wrote definitions for treif, kosher, pareve and more in our Dictionary of Jewish Words and wanted to test our skills. Let’s cut to the chase: We got a perfect score. We kind of think you will too.
Question 1: Which of the following dishes can’t be kosher?
a. Broiled salmon
b. Blackened catfish
c. Poached red snapper
d. Spicy tuna sushi
Were they trying to fool us with those delicious menu adjectives? They didn’t. To be kosher, a fish has to have fins and scales that can be easily removed with a knife without tearing the skin (of the fish, not the fisherman.) Catfish have fins and those creepy whiskers, but not true fish scales. And anyway, who wants to eat a fish that eats the stuff that sits on the bottom of the ocean? Answer: b.
Question 2: For a food to be kosher it must have been:
a. Blessed by a rabbi
b. Made in Israel
c. Made by Jews
d. Made in accordance with Jewish law
The laws of kashrut – keeping kosher – dictate a lot of things when it comes to food: No mixing of milk and meat. No shrimp. No eating your hamburger on a milchig (dairy) plate, and lots more. While the correct answer is d, we say c. If we go to the trouble of making you a roast beef sandwich with pesto, lettuce and tomato on a nice Kaiser roll for lunch, you better eat it.
Question 3: Which of the following is a classic Shabbat dinner?
b. Roast chicken
c. Matzah brei
We know they wanted us to pick roast chicken b, but we’re up for a good piece of halvah or a hamantaschen anytime. And if we have a box of leftover matzah in the cabinet, what’s wrong with eating matzah brie for Shabbat dinner in February?
Question 4: Which of the following is a traditional dish for Yom Kippur afternoon?
a. Roast chicken
b. Potato kugel
c. Challah with raisins
d. No food is served on Yom Kippur.
First of all, what’s with all the roast chicken? There’s nothing wrong with making a nice brisket now and then. And challah with raisins? We don’t want fruitcake. Our families like their challah plain – no strange fruits, no weird things mixed in.
The obvious – and correct – answer is d. Yom Kippur is a long, hungry, grumpy day. No challah. We look forward to that cup of coffee at 5 p.m. along with knishes and a bagel shmeered with cream cheese.
Because the quiz was so short, we came up with a few questions of our own.
Question 5: Proper matzah balls should be:
c. From the Manischewitz packet in the little box
d. Modernized with saffron and spinach
Our guests are divided between lovers of a and b, so at this year’s Passover seder, Joyce served everyone one floater (big and fluffy) and two sinkers (small and dense). Years ago, hoping to make her matzah balls very light and fluffy, Ellen handled the dough lightly and barely shaped each ball. When she lifted the lid, she saw that the matzah balls had disintegrated and the pieces had scattered like feathers into the soup. On second thought, we are going to add a fifth option: e. bought ready-made from the deli.
Question 6: For a bagel to be legit, it needs to be:
a. Baked in New York City
b. Sesame, lightly toasted
c. Bright green because St. Patty’s Day is coming
d. An everything bagel
Our answer is b, although we wouldn’t mark a wrong. New Yorkers think they are the best at everything, and we hate to admit it but when it comes to bagels, they’re right. Answer c? We put a dyed-green bagel in the same category as a jalapeno bagel – and just say no. Answer d, the everything bagel, may work for the undecided, but we think it’s a pain in the neck. It needs to be sequestered in its own bag so the onions don’t contaminate the other bagels.
Question 7: What does blech mean?
a. What we say when they sprinkle capers on top of our pizza
b. How we feel about the new paint color you picked for the bathroom
c. The metal plate on the stove to keep the flame lit on Shabbat
d. A synonym for yuck
When we say talk about blech during our book talk, our audience thinks we are referring to a, b, and d, but since this is a quiz about Jewish food, you could correctly assume that the answer is c. Blech is the Yiddish word for tin, and a blech is a metal sheet that can be placed over the burners on a stove to keep your roast chicken or brisket warm. There’s a modern version of a blech that’s electric and looks like a warming tray for hors d’oeuvres. They call it a “Shabbat warming tray” (and the full write-up says “electric belch”) Here it is on Amazon!