The Secret Of Gefilte Fish – Susan Weiman

An Interview With My Grandmother


“After I add the egg whites, I season with salt, pepper, sweetener, and add matzoh meal. I use my food chopper, mix thoroughly and taste it.  [To make the broth, I ] add fish skins and bones, onions, 6 celery sticks and 3 carrots in the mixture and grate one on top. Make the fish balls and cook for 2 ½  to 3 hours.”

(Susan) S: Nannie, how many fish do you use to make Gefilte fish?

(Nannie) N: They say 3 fish balls to the pound. I use the egg whites because there is less cholesterol. Your Uncle Murry likes them. That is the secret why the fish is so light. A lot of people when they make them, their fish is real hard.

(She picks up a whisk).

N: This here beats it up and makes it tender.

S: You’ve been making Gefilte fish for years. What makes your fish so special?  What is the secret to Gefilte fish?

N: I don’t know. Add salt and pepper. I use a little sweetener. If the people are diabetic — it’s easier for them.

S: What type of fish do you use?

N: Spots, trout and rockfish. Uncle Murry caught those. I guess I have to use whatever he brings now. Because I’m not going out fishin’ anymore.

S: Where does that goopy jelly come from?

N: It all depends on the fish. Spots is a fat fish which will make it jell more than others. Trouts are not too fat. I really don’t know, I think that’s the secret. The fish. The fish jelly. 

S: All of those beautiful egg whites.  Looks like you are baking a sponge cake.

N: No, I wouldn’t say it’s like a cake, no.

S: I mean the egg whites.  They look like icing on a cake.

N: Uh, uh. Wash your hands. You have clean hands? Do I have a box of matzoh meal here?

S: Wow, that’s a lot of pepper. I like how it looks!

N: You like it? I bet your brother Stephen could make this.

S: I’ll sell him the recipe. I’m not giving it away.

N: Is that why you’re here?  To learn my secrets?

S: I’m here because I’m your granddaughter! Will you share your recipe with me?

N: Aunt Ann always says to me, you want me to come over and help? She just wants to learn my secrets.

S: Nannie, no one can learn your secrets.

N: How do you know there is a secret? It’s just something I mix together myself.

S: You should probably become a doctor or a pharmacist and prescribe gefilte fish. The fish will make people smarter and carrots will improve their vision.  Is that a new grinder?

N: Imagine when I had to use Bubbie’s hand grinder.

S: I remember. That’s the one you had when you lived on Patterson Avenue.

N: This here grinder, Mrs. Brown got it as a present from her children. She said she don’t like it. don’t think she learned how to use it. It was brand new. I said, How much you want for it?  She said twenty-five dollars. It was no bargain. That was the price in the Best Catalogue. It sold for more in the stores, you know. I said, All right, I’ll buy it.

N: I also have a processor.  Next time, I’m gonna show you how to make coleslaw.

(The recipe yielded 37 pieces of Gefilte fish).


Susan Weiman is a storyteller, writer of literary nonfiction and poetry. Her work has been published in the Paterson Literary Review, Trolley,, and elsewhere. Her chapbooks are, Roommates, (ParksidePoetsPress, 2021), and New York-ish (NoNet Press, 2018). She is working on a memoir collection and a chapbook Life in the Time of Covid. She resides in Astoria, NY.

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