In my history as a Jewish child, I learned that when a parent or grandparent referred to some dish as a “delicacy,” it was time to politely excuse oneself and run screaming from the room. Such treats were often deeply unappealing to look at, came equipped with unappetizing names often featuring a large number of k’s and “sh” sounds, and were frankly horrifying when explained. (“That? It’s kishka. Oh, it’s intestine stuffed with flour, spices, and chicken fat. It’s a delicacy!….Wait, where are you going…?”)
But then I put away childish things, and learned that the same could be said for any unusual or sophisticated food, from foie gras to steak tartare. So what if it takes a certain amount of nerve (at first) to confront a raw oyster and decide to eat it? Unless you know better, the first thing you think when gazing upon a lobster isn’t “I bet that’s delicious,” but with experience comes enlightenment. Somewhere there are people who like haggis.
Which is to say, one is ill-served by one’s squeamishness when confronted with these off-putting dishes. The more you know, and the less terrified you are of them, the better your chances of trying them and possibly liking them. For that reason, I hereby undertake the public service of listing and explaining the composition of five little-known Jewish delicacies. I do it for the benefit of adults interested in expanding their culinary universe, for Jews of a certain age who might find some nostalgic pleasure in being reminded of these Old World dishes, and for non-Jews who find the information of interest. But I mainly do it, of course, for the children.
1. Klushkashush–Lit. “top and bottom.” Chicken brains stuffed with chicken feet, par-boiled and then baked with onions, flour, and—at least traditionally—gravel, which was thought to aid digestion.
2. Ka’Zellzel–Stuffed throat, usually of a sheep. Stuffing usually consists of kasha (buckwheat groats) that has been roasted, soaked, dried, ground, boiled, smashed, rebuked, sued, and left for dead. Variations include stuffing the stuffing with stuffing consisting of leftover kishka stuffing.
3. Gliggleflggle–Ox- or cow-tail baked in a hollowed-out turnip. Usually served with a sauce consisting of a slivovitz reduction flavored with chopped herring.
4. Varnished Kalashnikov–Goat intestine stuffed with chicken entrails, flavored with onions, oats, celery, and lamb fat. Usually roasted in a clay pot over an open candle for three weeks.
5. Schlezz–Soup made from goutweed, water or broth, hard-boiled eggs, and cow intestines. Often served with sliced radishes, fresh dill, and chicken brains leftover from klushkashush.