A Good Bowl of Matzo Ball Soup
Marais landmark – Jo Goldenberg.
Paris Life – No 37
by Laurel Avery
Paris:– Friday, 6. February 2004:– For the past few weeks I had been hankering for some of the food I used to get in New York, specifically a hot corned beef sandwich on rye with mustard. Naturally, I headed off to the Rue des Rosiers in the Marais.
This part of the Marais is known as the 'Pletzl,' meaning 'little place' in Yiddish, and has been a Jewish community on and off since the thirteenth century. France has the fifth largest Jewish population in the world after the United States, Israel, Russia and Ukraine. Originally mainly Ashkenazi, most of the newer Jewish immigrants are Sephardic.
Walk down the Rue des Rosiers and the delis, restaurants and bookstores are plentiful, though the Jewish community is scattered throughout all of Paris' arrondissements. I didn't see the usual profusion of yarmulkes covering men's heads that I was used to in New York.
There is no better area in Paris to get some of the things I used to find on nearly every street corner in New York. Good dill pickles, for example. The pickles in France, 'cornichons,' are very good, but they tend to be small and on the sweet side, quite unlike the spicy, sour kosher dills that accompany almost anything you would get in a Jewish deli.Window shopping at Goldenberg's.
When I walked into Jo Goldenberg's deli and restaurant I felt like I had reached gastronomic nirvana. It was difficult to decide what to order. My friend and I ordered different things so I could have a small taste of everything I had been yearning for. In short order, we were served pickles with horseradish, potato latkes, matzo ball soup and sauerkraut with corned beef and assorted 'charcuterie.'
When the pitcher of wine arrived, my first thought was to wonder if it was like the Manischewitz I used to have in the homes of Jewish friends when I was a kid. I picked up my glass, taking a cautious sip, half expecting a super–sweet grape taste, but was happy to discover a surprisingly tasty wine. I never did figure out what it was, but it was better than many of the house wines one gets around Paris.
Like in every Jewish home I have ever visited, nobody ever leaves the table hungry, and while it was tempting to have dessert, I decided to get some things to go. While difficult to choose from all the mouth-watering delicacies on offer, I finally decided on a piece of strudel, a slice of cheesecake and some poppy–seed cake, all of which were absolutely delicious.Marais bakery.
Not far from the Rue des Rosiers is the Museum of Jewish Art and History, located at 71. Rue du Temple. It features the cultural and artistic heritage of the Jews in France from the middle ages through today. There are manuscripts and religious artefacts, as well as works by some of the most famous Jewish artists of the 20th century, including Chagall, Modigliani, Soutine and others.
French governments have had a less–than–illustrious past in relation to Jewish citizens, though there doesn't seem to be any more anti–semitism here than in any other large city, and the French government has expressed their dedication to eradicating anti–semitism from the country by imposing severe penalties for perpetrators.
But probably the most insidious threat to the Jewish community here is the infiltration of trendy boutiques into the ever–more–expensive Marais. The small mom–and–pop delis and shops are slowly being replaced by shops that sell one more useless item of clothing that will be out of fashion in two weeks.
Making the Rue de Rosiers into a pedestrian street is meeting resistance from shopkeepers and residents, who fear that being carless will only invite the boutiquistas to invade. 'No Montorgeuil here,' they say. So far, Mayor Bertrand Delanoë has said no decision has been made.Hollywood Bagel shop in the Marais.
But if you worry, you should hurry – while there's time you can still get a good bowl of matzo ball soup, just like mom used to make.
Jo Goldenberg – at 7. Rue des Rosiers, Paris 4. Métro: Saint–Paul. Open daily from 8:00 to 01:00. InfoTel.: 01 48 87 20 16.
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme – open except Saturdays, daily from 11:00 to 18:00, and on Sundays from 10:00 to 18:00. At the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme, Hôtel de Saint–Aignan, 71. Rue du Temple, Paris 3. Métro: Rambuteau. InfoTel.: 01 53 01 86 60.
Maison de la Culture Yiddish and Bibliothèque Medem, 18. Passage Saint–Pierre–Amelot, Paris 11. Métro: Oberkampf. InfoTel.: 01 47 00 14 00.
Text & photos, Laurel Avery © 2004
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