Review: Gefiltefest 2016 - Jewish Renaissance visits Finchley Road’s very own Gastro-nbury

gefiltefest5 copy Gefiltefest featured surprisingly few actual gefilte fish, but as one of the arguably less tasty staples of Jewish cuisine, it was more than made up for by the variety of food, including dairy-free ice cream, vegetarian caviar and multi-coloured hamentashen, all of which we dutifully and extensively sampled. Beth Duncan of Stapleton Dairy poured out tasting pots of the best yoghurt known to Finchley Road, and the courtyard was dominated by the exuberance of Michelle from Visit Israel – if this radiant lady can’t convince you to make Aliyah, no one can.

Founded by Michael Leventhal in 2010, Gefiltefest is a charity whose work culminates in the annual festival celebrating Jewish culture, heritage and food (and lots of it). JR spoke to Charlie from Mitzvah Day Charity, who ran an apple crumble making workshop for children attending the event. The crumbles were donated directly to asylum seekers at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, exemplifying the kind of charity work Mitzvah Day encourages: giving up your time instead of just your cash.

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A particular gem was the children’s books being promoted at the Jewish Vegetarian Society’s stall. Reminiscent of the recent children’s book And Tango Makes Three, about two homosexual penguins who decide to adopt, the power of ideas in fiction for the youngest of readers is not to be underestimated. We may just see a generation of little vegans yet.

The festival attendees were also treated to a range of workshops, talks, films and events, including a rip-roaring edition of Just a Minute, Gefiltefest style. The host quickly dispelled fears that the show would be akin to the poorly received Have I Got Jews For You or Schmock the Week. This was almost immediately evident after a comment from a panel member about 30 seconds in caused another to spray of water over the front row (alas, we quickly regretted our seating choice).

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Topics ranged from ‘bagel or beigel?’ and ‘latkas vs hamentashen’ to Mrs Elswood and 'my mother’s chicken soup’, each extrapolated on beautifully by the gifted wits Abigail Morris, Dan Patterson, Adam Taub and Jenni Frazer, who were bolstered by host Raymond Simonson. Although wholly enjoyed by most, the event was put into perspective by the sleeping (or worse) older lady at the back of the room, as Simonson confirmed after a joke about Mr Elswood’s pickle: “This is about as niche as it gets.”

The day was rounded off by a cooking demonstration by Tomer Amedi, head chef of the new award-winning restaurant The Palomar, who revealed the secrets behind the restaurant’s signature Jerusalem-style polenta. The audience murmured angrily as Amedi explained the difficulties of finding kosher asparagus, and we left quietly with a full stomach and on a beeline for Babke ingredients.

By Rachel Wood