After looking for two days, I found one of Prague’s kosher restaurants. A very unassuming exterior [see Sept. 20 post], and quite a modest interior gave no clue to the raucous, yet religious fervor we would enjoy throughout a 2-hour lunch!
It is operated by the Chabad movement and most of the patrons were, indeed, member of that group, which I liken to the Salvation Army in the Christian world. The members desire and strive to bring unaffiliated and non-observant Jews back to Judaism. With their black and white attire, beards, black hats and zitzit, they are easy to spot.
Statistics show that something like 50% of the Jewish population is biologically or culturally Jewish, but non-observant and highly-assimilated with their surrounding cultures. Chabad would like to change that.
This has been a continuing issue for the Jews since the destruction of the Second Temple, some 2000 years ago. It was the reason for the Maccabbean Revolt, which started as a movement to stop young Jews from identifying with the Greeks a couple hundred years BEFORE the Christian era!
Well, be that as it may, lunch at that restaurant was a memorable experience. Tons of food – both Israeli and Central European, plus tiny glasses for wine, both red and white, poured repeatedly during the meal, combined with loud, joyous singing.
So. Here’s what we had: Challot – rolls; cucumber slaw; salat – roasted eggplant slices topped with chopped tomatoes; hummus; lox with gefilte fisch (best I’ve ever tasted); egg salad topped with halved tomatoes. All this was pre-set on the tables, which also had pitchers of water with mint and lemon and the wine.
But that was just the beginning. The second course was cholent, a traditional, long-cooked stew of potatoes, a tiny bit of meat (I thought my mother could stretch meat!), a variety of beans, and some other items which I interpreted as toasted, hard bread crusts. With the cholent was kugel – noodles, in this case they looked like spaghetti cooked into a thick, browned, almost-cake. On the tables were added some cold cuts – thin sliced turkey and some red meat, maybe corned beef, made into a sausage.
There was also chopped liver – by far the worst piece of food I have ever tasted! I had to drink several glasses of wine to remove the taste.
Finally – dessert. A refreshing blend of fresh fruits: oranges, pinapple, kiwi and banana in orange juice. I staggered out of the place at about 3 pm, caught the trams home with no problem, fell on my bed and slept for 4 hours.