Sorry, everyone. I hate gefilte fish.
While I respect those who eat it, and read with more than casual interest the piece in the Globe yesterday about the gefilte fish taste test, it’s never going to happen. The mélange of pike, whitefish, carp, and other nasty-ish ingredients-that-must-not-be-named is a red line that I will not cross.
Once, in the mid-1980s, I had a piece because I had told my grandfather I would try it and there was no way he was going to let me get out of it. It was all wrong- the smell, the texture, the taste, the ingredients, and I remember the trauma and embarrassment of pitching a small tantrum and still having to eat it.
For those of you who love it, bless you, no hard feelings. I understand its existential importance to Ashkenazi Jews, but for me it’s kind of like avoiding kitniyot on Passover or the letter tav making the “s” sound and not the “t” sound if there’s not a dagesh (dot) in the middle… one of those Eastern European Jewish things that doesn’t mesh with my view of the Jewish world. Ground, stuffed, and seasoned bottom-feeding fish is just not going to work for me.
But when it comes to carp and springtime, there is one thing that I do enjoy.
Every year in early April, the Concord River swells from the spring rains and snow melt upstream, and out at Great Meadows in Concord the water rushes all the way up to the perimeter path. It’s a trail that I know very well, both from my childhood of going out there with my parents and from the present day as one of my trademark running routes, and depending on the season you can see a rich variety of birds and wildlife.
Beyond the skittish muskrats and great blue herons that are the hallmark of Great Meadows in April, the other remarkable feature of the wildlife refuge around now is the fact that the Concord River turns a special hue of blue/gray as hundreds, if not thousands, of carp cloud its waters by the edge of Great Meadows. If you walk or run by the river bank, take a look into the water and you will see the big, fat, carp jostling each other and splashing around. Every now and then, one of them will try to jump over the mesh barriers that the rangers put up to keep the predators from entering the swamp area of Great Meadows, and sometimes you might even find one languishing in shallow water because it managed to flop over it. They always come for about two weeks, and then they’re gone, but for that short amount of time there’s nothing quite like it.
So as you make hard decisions about to eat, or not eat gefilte fish this Passover, keep in mind that if you want to enjoy carp in a different and flavor-neutral context, take a trip out to Concord. You just might see them in the river on a fine spring afternoon.
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