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Kiddush Food Guide

Kiddush is one of my favorite Jewish specific events, and it doesnt happen often enough. Todays uncertain economy has brought down the quality of kiddushim to the lowest Ive seen in years. Todays kiddushim are nothing like that of those lavish catered weekly affairs of my youth when every shul had a hot Kiddush every week. If they didnt, no one showed up. With that I bring you the guide to Kiddush foods — my two cents on the most common Kiddush foods. I am not going to give you every little item just the most common of the bunch.

Soggy tabouli: I have pondered for years about the fact that Kiddush tabouli is always soggy. I think its a sisterhood conspiracy or it could be due to the fact that its usually of the packaged variety seen in the refrigerator next to the other packaged salads.

Veggie sticks: Carrots, Celery and red peppers seem to be most common. Wealthier shuls will throw in cherry tomatoes which are impossible to dip without getting your hands into the dressing. It seems that modern orthodox shuls have a love affair with Vidalia onion dressing of the bulk BJs variety to place in the center of the platter. At frum shuls, the red peppers must never have crunch.

Fish balls: they seem like a thing of the past from the Kiddush of yesteryear, or the shalosh seudas of yore, but fish balls can still be found. They are mostly found in old people shuls where an 80 year old man gets up to do anim zemiros and talk is centered on lipitor and arthritis.

Herring: The most classic of Kiddush foods — it is a hot commodity in black hat shuls. Herring is one of those foods for which you need to leave your germ-phobias at the door. Double dipping, onion slurping and borer are all allowed when it comes to the herring plate. Creamed herring is for the modern orthodox. Real Jews eat matias and wine sauce herring.

Cholent: When I was a kid it seemed like every Kiddush had cholent. This is not so anymore. Shuls advertise hot Kiddush and if you belong to a modern orthodox shul they call it a Gala Hot Kiddush. Cholent makes for a violent Kiddush. I hate it when the spoon falls into the pot and gets wrapped in napkins that get all brown and soaked. Then you have the pickers — the folks who hold up the line in search for meat, and the kids who just want a huge chunk of potato.

Kishke: something tells me that kishke at Kiddush is a frummy thing. For some reason I have fond memories of mailmart catered kiddushim having the best kishke. I love hearing people talk about stuffing kishkes.

Cigars: Moroccan cigars are never good at Kiddush. That doesnt stop me from loading up whenever I happen on a great Sephardic shul Kiddush. Good Sephardim will have lemon and tahina for your dipping pleasure.

Soda deserves its own little subsection when it comes to Kiddush foods:

Brand Name Soda: Wealthy shuls, modern orthodox shuls in the New York Area and catered kiddushim get to have real soda everyone else must suffer.

Mayim Chayim or Beer Mayim: I love how one of these two has a whole thing about similar sounding sodas that arent original. If they have one liter bottles of either of these brands you can be assured a frummy event no matter where you are. Go to a chosson’s tish with these brands and you are sure going to be stiffed with stale pound cake and old hot dogs.

Generic Soda: Out of town modern orthodox shuls love generic soda. They also love having the worst flavors, usually in 3 liter bottles that are half empty because they used them at last week’s shalosh seudas.

Pesach Soda: Out of town shuls love stocking up on pesach products and serving them at Kiddush for 3 months after pesach.

Seltzer: Every Kiddush has to have an equal ratio of soda to seltzer. What is it about Jews and seltzer? Also each Kiddush has to have at least one seltzer overflow accident.

Flat Soda: Shuls where the average age is over 60 are more likely to have flat soda. This may be due to the lack of nerves that can detect fizz or due to the fact that many older folks dont have the strength to open a sealed soda bottle.

Alcohol: I get extremely annoyed when there is a self appointed bartender at Kiddush. I dont even drink and this annoys me. I understand why hes there to stop kids from drinking and adults from getting sloshed. It undermines the natural anarchic situation that takes place at Kiddush. Large modern orthodox shuls are more likely to have one of these. I have noticed that smaller shuls usually have the hocker walking around with his own bottle. I love when people who know nothing about scotch talk about it until someone comes along who actually knows something and puts them to shame.

Stella Dora: I used to think setlla dora were the frummy cookie of choice until I realized they were just really popular in the 80s and were parve. I absolutely love the cookies with the soft chocolate in the middle.

Pretzels: if you ever go to a crappy Kiddush, the type with carrot sticks, stale cake and chips and salsa, they will most likely have pretzels.

Entenmann’s: The greatest of all Kiddush cakes. The raspberry twist seems to be a hit as well as the cinnamon walnut ring. Rarely do you get the cheesecake and when they serve it at Kiddush its gone in 3 minutes. Frummies dont do Entenmann’s because its not cholov yisroel.

Chips and Salsa: This has been all the rage over the past few years. We Jews need to get our chips and dip on. It’s usually bad salsa of the Ortega tall bottle variety is served in Styrofoam bowls. If you are lucky you might find the king of all salsa — La Victoria. Of course, this is only on the West Coast.

Stale baked goods: The classic poor frummy shul Kiddush contains stale pound cake, some pretzels, crackers and generic herring. Stale baked goods are a popular item at all Kiddush like places especially the chosson tish and the mens side of shalom zachors that decided to go with Greens packaged rugalechs instead of homemade baby cookies.

{ 51 comments… add one }
  • Avrumy April 26, 2010, 12:39 PM

    Bad kiddush food:
    Stale popcorn.
    Three-bean salad.

    Great kiddush food:
    Stuffed cabbage.
    Chicken nuggets.

  • Rizzo April 26, 2010, 1:05 PM

    best kiddush foods are at Machon Chana shul in Crown Heights. All the men make kiddush on a cup of smirnoff and madness unsues. People crying, laughing, throwing things, and serving Hashme with joy! Some real nice brochas a re givin! Plus the food is nice with soda, chulunt and salads all types, plus cold cuts. And best part— ladys have their own kiddush with guests speakers on other side of the mechiza!

  • Tova April 26, 2010, 1:11 PM

    My shul has a kiddush every week. For simchas, there is the whole spread and sit-down tables. Most weeks, there’s Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee and juice.

    • DrumIntellect May 3, 2010, 11:53 AM

      Dunkin’ Donuts? Now there’s a kiddush!

      In the shteeble growing up most weeks they had the non-sugared kichel, alcohol, and herring. I loved when my dad made the kiddush because there was always cake, licorice, and soda.

  • Chaviva April 26, 2010, 1:14 PM

    Every kiddush at our shul has the following:
    Egg Salad
    Fruit plate
    Noodle Kugel
    Veggie plate
    Stale cookies

    My favorite kiddush food ever is CHOLENT. The best places I’ve been for this? The Bridge Shul in Washington Heights serves a VAT of cholent, so good. Also? This one small shul in Wesley Hills (i.e. Monsey) has cholent with kishka baked on the top. OMG. It’s like … heaven.

    • Tova April 26, 2010, 2:04 PM

      Kiddush cholent is always excellent. My shul has an annual men’s “Cholent Cook-Off”, too.

      • Annonymous April 28, 2010, 5:06 AM

        Tova, regrading your comment, “My shul has an annual mens Cholent Cook-Off, too.”

        If you are talking about YIOP in Detroit, then the cholent cookoff has nothing to do with men. It’s for anyone. It’s a cholent cookoff- luncheon for families and men and women participate together. I’m a woman and I was on the organizing committee for several years as well as a participant in the cholent cookoff.

    • A. Nuran April 28, 2010, 2:31 AM

      I really REALLY wish I could still eat herring. Used to love it, but got a bad batch and learned what the phrase “projectile vomiting” really means. Three years later if I smell or taste it my body has an overpowering reaction. “Bad! Poison! Do not eat!”

  • E. Fink April 26, 2010, 1:28 PM

    Alas, Ortega Salsa is no longer kosher…

    • Chaviva April 26, 2010, 1:33 PM

      A SHONDA!

    • Levy Bernstein April 26, 2010, 3:02 PM

      Have you tried La Victoria? It is superb and in many ways superior to Ortega (imho of course)

      • E. Fink April 26, 2010, 4:04 PM

        Yes La Victoria is the de facto Salsa Standard in our home.

        • Heshy Fried April 26, 2010, 11:09 PM

          The best salsa is Walnut Acres Organic Mango salsa

          Target and Trader Joes also make amazing salsa.

          • Levy Bernstein April 27, 2010, 4:57 PM

            Who certifies them?

        • A. Nuran April 27, 2010, 12:17 PM

          Our standard is homemade. Cheap. Easy to make. Better than store-bought. Cans or freezes easily.

  • Tova April 26, 2010, 1:46 PM

    Also, you forgot to mention sour pickles.

  • Anonymous April 26, 2010, 2:25 PM

    my shul serves a cholent nobody eats cause it has no flavor… but we have cherry tomatoes and challah every week….

  • Anon April 26, 2010, 2:27 PM

    Re: alchohol at kiddushes.
    Seems like a dying trend. So many shuls are politcally correct and ban alcohol either officially or unofficially.
    A majority of the shuls in my town either don’t allow alcohol at kiddushes, or don’t have it anyway, even if it is technically allowed.

    • Rizzo April 26, 2010, 2:33 PM

      problem…poeple need enthusiasm and thats what loosens them up.. first step towards a dull relgious expierence

  • Anonymous April 26, 2010, 2:29 PM

    do some posts about frum doctors, frum lawyers, frum accountants etc..

    • Heshy Fried April 26, 2010, 11:10 PM

      Because doctors and lawyers are just so interesting – what should I do the post about.

      • Anonymous April 27, 2010, 9:05 AM

        that’s for you to make up… it’s your blog….

  • Anonymous April 26, 2010, 2:59 PM

    Will there be a separate post dedicated to p’tcha/gala? No kiddush can really be Gala without some jiggly well spiced p’tcha.

  • rabba bar bar chana April 26, 2010, 3:36 PM

    The best vegetarian chulent I’ve ever had at a kiddush is when I was on the kiddush committee for my shul. My recipe was da bomb.

  • LonelyMan April 26, 2010, 4:59 PM

    You’re wrong about salsa’s Heshy. The real king of all salsa’s is Trader Joe’s Pineapple salsa. It’s awesome with everything and makes for great flavoring for chicken and fish. You’re on the West Coast now so you have no excuse to not go to TJ’s!

  • David Abraham April 26, 2010, 8:59 PM

    You totally forgot Kichel and Mandel Broit!

    • A. Nuran April 27, 2010, 12:02 AM

      I have a coffee can full of cookies in the freezer. We call it the Mandelbroit set.

    • Tova April 27, 2010, 1:18 AM

      I love the kichel.

  • A. Nuran April 26, 2010, 11:58 PM

    Hate to say it, but I just can’t see the point of cholent. I’ve had okay cholent, really good cholent and supposed-to-be-ambrosial cholent. None of it was anything to write home about. With all the great things you can do with beans, potatoes, grains and meat the best this dish gets is “meh”.

    • Tova April 27, 2010, 1:03 AM


      • Rizzo April 27, 2010, 2:00 PM

        Its aprt of the culture thats what makes it an importnat food item. Many people have grown up on this comfort food and expect soething they had since they were young.

        • A. Nuran April 27, 2010, 3:29 PM

          To quote the Happy Haploid of Nazareth “Thou sayest it, not I.” 🙂

  • Tova April 27, 2010, 4:02 AM

    I love the kichel.
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  • ck April 27, 2010, 8:09 AM

    What about the honey cake/chocolate vanilla sponge cake thing? My Sephardic congregation used to pray in the chapel of a Young Israel. The JDL machers of the Ashkenazic congregation used to have a kiddush club with cholent every shabbat. Now Mr. R_ made aliyah with his family, and Mr. G_ did a stint in jail for trying to sell forged Canadian passports and machine guns to a bunch of Nigerians – the proceeds to be used to fund settlements in Judea and Samaria. I’m not kidding. And now the Rabbi of the Young Israel is… a chabadnik. Jeez Louise things change…

  • ck April 27, 2010, 8:11 AM

    Oh yeah, and we also had off brand soda, made by some bizarre company that I never saw on the shelf of any grocery store anywhere. I think that Young Israel was its only customer.

  • Zvi Lampert April 27, 2010, 11:04 PM

    You didn’t mention kugel. What an oversight! Potato, lukshen and/or Yerushalmi are staples at any hot kiddush.
    No self respecting kiddush master would ever serve herring without tam tam crackers.
    No hardcore heimish kiddush is complete without ptcha.
    In the five towns you can be put in cherem if your kiddush doesn’t include sinlge malt scotch. If you serve Johnny Walker red your kids might not find a shidduch. The latest trend is for individuals to bring a flask to shul just in case.

    • DrumIntellect May 3, 2010, 11:57 AM

      The best kiddush kugel is at Stolin in Beitar Illit.
      It is worth waking up on Saturday and sitting through the service.

  • Yochanan April 28, 2010, 10:50 PM

    Anyone notice the woman in the weight loss ad is named Leah?

  • sarah April 29, 2010, 11:03 PM

    hey, you can get la victoria in the hinterlands, dude.

    the fresh kind beats all, but I’m not sure any of the kinds you can get int he store are kosher.

    I agree, though, the stella doro chocolate stars are awesome.

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