A Non-Blog Disliked by Google
What would you carry home from the theater? A treger (literally, a carrier) was like a human delivery truck - they would carry extraordinarily heavy things on their backs for a living - wood, coal, sacks of potatoes, flat screen TVs. OK, maybe not TV's. I guess they were too poor to even have a hand cart.
I dont know when this picture was taken. Possibly after the ghetto was established (since the people look so desperate and hungry). You know, there was a Yiddisch theater in the Vilna Ghetto, operating from 1942. Gens writes: "Before the first concert they said that a concert must not be held in a graveyard. This is true, but the whole of life is now a graveyard."
Where did you get the photo from? Sad to say, but the desperately poor in Eastern Europe didn't look so good even before the war. WWI didn't really end cleanly - there was regional instability in many area into the early 20s, and then the Great Depression hit in '29 so there were not too many fat years to balance out the lean. Eating every day was not a sure thing for many. My father told me that in the homes (hovels) of the poorest of the poor in winter, the walls would be glazed with ice from the condensed breath of the occupants - there was no money for fuel. Of course not everyone was this poor but there was very little social safety net for the poorest of the poor. Of course tregers were a couple of steps up the ladder - I guess the very bottom would be occupied by beggars. My late father viewed it as comical that "poor" people in America were (and still are) often grotesquely obese. In his world, only rich men could afford to be obese and a "fat poor person" was an oxymoron.
Jewish poverty was desperate in some overpopulated areas of Galitzia too. Thousands died of hunger and cold each winter. My mother´s culinary expertise includes komenymagleves, which is basically a calorieless soup, made from hot water, grass seeds and the grease stuck in the bottom of the pot from earlier cookings. Poverty was so near and it was so frightening that no one ever talked or wrote about it. Like disease.
I think your mother might dispute the recipe a little - it's supposed to be caraway (like the seeds in rye bread) and you're supposed to brown some flour in the grease - no matter how poor you were, a couple of tablespoons of flour were not a big expense. And an onion - onions and browned flour and a little salt add a surprising amount of taste to something that, has you say, doesn't really have much caloric value, but it was hot and the flour thickened the soup a little so it felt like you were eating something more than hot water.My uncle (on my mother's side) told me that when they were on the long slow train to Kazakhstan (deported from Galicia by the NKVD as "enemies of the people" - it saved their life - those who weren't deported were all killed when the Germans came later) the Russians didn't bother to feed them. After several days, they complained to the train conductor and he replied (in Russian, but they spoke Ukrainian so they could understand), "Nothing to worry about, folks - there's plenty of hot water at the next station." Apparently every Russian train station had a large Samovar that passengers could draw from. The idea that hot water was not food didn't seem to register.
In theory, you are right, it is caraway seeds and a spoonful of flour to give the soup some consistency. In actual practice, it is little more than hot water and any aromatic seeds. A wartime recipe (not kosher) was the ¨rooftop rabbit gulyas¨. Lets forget the bad times.
Post a Comment