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May 17, 2017 2:23 pm

New York Times Turns Its Nose Up at Gefilte Fish

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Gefilte fish balls. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A New York Times article from Berlin begins, “Beige, boiled and usually packed in a gelatinous goo, gefilte fish is not the sort of dish that typically excites foodies.”

It’s just the latest example of a Times double standard.

Consider the chickpea — also often beige, boiled, and usually packed in a gelatinous goo.

A Times food-section article published about a year ago rhapsodized about a restaurant in Queens, naming it a “NYT Critic’s Pick.” It appeared under the headline “At King of Falafel, the Crown Jewels Are Chickpeas.” The article went on about the place’s “bright dining room tiled in red and green, with chairs to match, around glossy black tables. The colors are a nod to the Palestinian flag (Mr. Zeideia grew up in Ramallah, on the West Bank).” It reported about the falafel, “Made in the Palestinian style, from his mother’s recipe, it shuns fava beans in favor of all chickpeas.”

Somehow, when it was Palestinian chickpeas being praised, rather than Jewish gefilte fish, the Times didn’t feel the need to preface the praise with disparaging remarks.

Likewise, a positive Times profile of a CNN journalist, Andrew Kaczynski, had him “eating garbanzo beans from a can as he goes about his work.” No disparaging remarks there about beige, boiled, or gelatinous goo.

In fairness to the Times, the dispatch from Berlin turns more positive toward gefilte fish once it gets going, suggesting that its contemporary incarnations are more appealing than the versions favored by past generations.

But this is, nonetheless, the kind of small slight that adds up over time. Ashkenazi Jewish food like gefilte fish is portrayed by the Times as intrinsically unappealing, as in some stereotypical joke about a Jewish mother or princess. The Palestinian chickpeas or reporter’s garbanzo beans get no such treatment. It’s almost enough to make one suspect that the Times’ real problem with gefilte fish isn’t the color or texture of the food or the way it is cooked, but something else, some other attribute.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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