Jewish foods: Don’t toss the traditions along with the fat


I grew up on bagels, lox and cream cheese, stuffed cabbage, gefilte fish, brisket, chopped liver and chicken soup.

I remember as a child sitting around the kitchen table and eating these foods with great gusto and lots of mmms! We would share them with visiting aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and friends. These foods were a big part of my early life, part of my heritage and traditions, and I loved them.

It was such a treat to visit my grandparents and watch my grandmother make her own gefilte fish using a food grinder.

I loved helping her make teiglach, small knotted pastries boiled in honeyed syrup, twisted and dipped in honey. At Rosh Hashanah, my family gobbled it up as soon as it appeared. 

Fast-forward 30 or more years and now we have nutritional guidelines to consider. The cream cheese is heavy dairy, the bagels have gluten, there’s canned tomato sauce in the stuffed cabbage, gefilte fish comes in a jar with preservatives, chopped liver is very high in fat and cholesterol, and chicken soup has hidden sodium.

But there is an alternative. You can enjoy fat-free cream cheese, gluten-free bagels, homemade gefilte fish, small portions of chopped liver, and homemade chicken soup with all the fat skimmed off and low-sodium broth. Just keep modifying your choices until you are satisfied with both the taste and the nutritional content.

This will work for some people, but others may have too many dietary restrictions to contend with: no-carb diets, low-carb, no-sugar, high-fat, low-fat, and the list goes on … and on.

I think about these foods, now in question, with fond memories of fun, family, learning and community. Food connects us to each other, especially during Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

So here’s my personal conclusion: You can find a cookbook with healthy modifications, but if that doesn’t work for you, keep the bagels, keep the cream cheese, keep the fat in the chopped liver and the preservatives in the gefilte fish. Sit down and enjoy the foods of your heritage, culture, traditions, youth and taste buds. Just two words make this work for me … moderation and joy!

PATRICIA RASKIN is an award-winner radio producer and talk-show host. “The Patricia Raskin Show” airs on WPRO. She is a board member of Temple Emanu-El. Raskin can be reached at