Gail Simmons and Andrew Zimmern: Jewish Food Traditions

For the love of pickle juice and schmaltz on toast: How traditional Jewish cooking influenced both Gail Simmons and Andrew Zimmern as chefs.

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[MUSIC] God, so much good Jew food. [MUSIC] My husband's grandfather- Uh-huh. Who we loved very dearly, he died at 96 And I believe he made it to 96 because the man drank a shot of kosher dill pickle juice every day. Same with my grandmother, who made it to 90. Yeah. Yeah. Unbelievable, so pickle juice is very important in my family. Huge. To this day. His favorite, favorite thing was just schmaltz on toast. Yep. So schmaltz and pickle juice diet, I think is like the elixir of life. The also complement each other. Yes, the acid. One clogs your arteries and the other one frees them up. Totally. There is something to be said for the cook from scratch, old steidl mentality and keeping it very simple and eating certain foods, I think contribute to, I think long life and happiness. I learned to cook in my grandmother's kitchen, at 411 West End Avenue, in a kitchen not much. These two chairs that you and I would fit in the little alleyway, but not with the stove door open. And my grandmother would routinely cook for My uncle and my dad and myself and my six cousins and we'd all pile in there on Sundays for lunch and you know, pickled tongue and jars of schmaltz. Yeah. And walking around she was the president of Mount Nebo Sisterhood. Of course. Right around the corner from Zabars for like 40 years. And so to walk around the neighborhood with her and get a little bit of free bologna and Too many pinches on the cheek, and you know a pickle, a little treat was to me, I just thought this woman is a superstar. My grandmother kept kosher except for one night a month at Richard May's King Dragon. Right, oh yeah, there was always, right. Where she would have one fantail shrimp, and she would always eat the wonton soup despite the fact that in the wontons there was pork. Pork. And when I was old enough, and I was just an obnoxious ten year old, I'd be like. Grandma's not keeping kosher, making fun of her and she would pretend not to hear me. Of course. Well, my father-in-law still does that because he won't really mix milk and meat but he will eat a pepperoni pizza once in a while. Right, of course. Which is fine. I will say, my family wasn't kosher. My grandparents weren't kosher, but there was like an unwritten no pork rule, which I never though about until I kind of became my own adult. And if you go out on the world and realize how delicious pork is. Sure. And embrace it whole heartedly. My husband still has that weird kind of no for pork back to his head. And he's happy to eat it it's incorporated into things. But he can never sit down and just like eat a piece of pig. How does he do with shellfish Oh no problem. Lobsters don't count Yeah. just. all in. Oh, fully. [LAUGH] See that's what I love about being Jewish. You can define your own rules. Absolutely. And still be culturally relevent to our people. [MUSIC]
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Gail Simmons and Andrew Zimmern: Jewish Food Traditions