Kiddush is one of my favorite Jewish specific events, and it doesnít happen often enough. Todayís uncertain economy has brought down the quality of kiddushim to the lowest Iíve seen in years. Todayís 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 didnít, 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 Ė 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 itís a sisterhood conspiracy Ė or it could be due to the fact that itís 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 BJís 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 doesnít 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 Ė everyone else must suffer.
Mayim Chayim or Beíer Mayim: I love how one of these two has a whole thing about similar sounding sodas that arenít 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 donít have the strength to open a sealed soda bottle.
Alcohol: I get extremely annoyed when there is a self appointed bartender at Kiddush. I donít even drink and this annoys me. I understand why heís there Ė 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 80ís 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 itís gone in 3 minutes. Frummies donít do Entenmann’s because itís 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 Ė especially the chosson tish and the menís side of shalom zachors that decided to go with Greens packaged rugalechs instead of homemade baby cookies.