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The Other Corned Beef

March 21, 2017

Surely there is someone who cares enough about corned beef to be able to explain the subtle differences between Irish and Jewish versions of the dish. All I know is that we were both poor immigrants to this country roughly around the same time. And now, as far as I can tell, we’re both widely considered to be white.

Which is kind of a miracle in itself, you know, since we were both so foreign and reviled at the time.

Last Friday was Saint Patrick’s Day, and that was the holiday when many people make a point to eat corned beef and cabbage. But this upcoming Sunday is the Jewish Food Festival, and we’ve got something even better.


Look, I enjoy a nice fatty corned beef. I do. With a little schmear of deli mustard, on some nice hearty rye. I love it sliced thick by hand, with plenty of fat that is well steamed, tender, and buttery. But there is so much bad corned beef in the universe that I rarely order the stuff anymore.

Pastrami, on the other hand, is almost always super delicious. True, I still prefer this preparation of beef to be similarly sliced, with plenty of fat that just melts in your mouth and fulfills the promise of this ethnic delicacy.

It’s not something I eat all the time, but every year at the Jewish Food Festival, I make sure to at least get my annual taste.

So Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady hosts this annual event, and it’s been going on for almost two decades. Yet every year, I’m amazed by how many people still don’t know that the Capital Region has a Jewish Food Festival. And I’m constantly surprised by how many people have never been.

For the sake of full disclosure, this is the temple to which I belong. At one point I was on the board of directors. And right now, Yelp is partnering with the event as a sponsor. Actually, if you go to Yelp, you can win a pair of free tickets while getting all the event details, which is pretty sweet.

But I would be pitching the event regardless.

I know that I’ll be judging the Passover dessert contest. But right now, I don’t know if I’m doing that wearing my Yelp hat, or my Fussy Little Blog hat. Sometimes the line gets a bit blurred. Whatever the case, I’ll be wearing my red Yelp shirt so I’ll be easier to find.

Some of my favorite bites to eat are invariably the matzoh ball soup, the brisket, and the chopped liver. Chopped liver is one of those things that doesn’t get nearly enough love. I know there is a crew that slaves over a big batch of the stuff every year, and it’s delicious. Still, I watch people pass it by, scrunching up their nose at the word liver. And it breaks my heart.

Chopped liver doesn’t last terribly long. And I’d rather eat it than see it wasted. That means I end up eating more chopped liver than I know I should purely out of guilt. Eating out of guilt is very Jewish.

Sure, the Jewish Food Festival may not be the booze-soaked bacchanalia that Saint Patrick’s Day has become. However, it’s totally delicious. But I’m biased. This is the food of my people.

My hope is that some of you would like to come down and check me out in my element. It would be great to see some Fussies who aren’t my children, in addition to the Yelpers. You don’t even have to pre-order tickets. You can simply buy them at the door. And there’s a discount if you bring three nonperishable items for the food bank.

I do always appreciate when food events have some kind of component that acknowledges how lucky we are to be able to feast while others go without. Food insecurity is no joke. Which reminds me, don’t forget to check out CANstruction, which you can still catch at the State Museum through tomorrow, March 22.

Man, sometimes there’s just too many great things happening in this little upstate community.

I just found out about Table Hopping’s 10th anniversary blog party last night. It seems like just yesterday that I was at the fifth anniversary party. Where does the time go? Congratulations to Steve and the TU for keeping it going all of these years.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 21, 2017 9:08 am

    Is there a difference between the “Irish” and the “Jewish” versions of corned beef in the US? The Irish probably started getting their corned beef from the Jewish delis anyhow. Pastrami is pretty much just smoked corned beef….

    Beef was cheap, brisket used to be a cheap cut of beef, “corning” is an efficient manner to extend the shelf life. So is smoking. Now you can get bright red, flaccid, hunks of sad beef in little plastic sacks at the supermarket. It all couldn’t be any more American…

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