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Sunday, December 19, 2004

The good, the bad… and the chopped liver

OK, the good part is that Photo Friday had the desired result; lots of discussion.

The bad part is that seemingly all of the discussion revolved around a minor detail that was visible in one corner of one picture.  C’mon people, there were at least two other potentially lethal weapons in those pictures (not counting the liver) and yet you felt the need to fixate on the gun.  Sheesh!

Granted some of you may be new to treppenwitz, and weren’t around when I discussed my thoughts on gun ownership and my personal reasons for reluctantly deciding to carry one. But for the rest of you [wags finger reproachfully]… when the busty waitress at your favorite greasy spoon leans over to wipe your table… have a little class and resist the temptation to stare at the now-familiar cleavage!

I’ll admit that I should have followed Zahava’s sage advice and just cropped the picture. But then the only part of me left in the picture would have been my arm (as opposed to my sidearm)… and the request was for a picture of me chopping liver!


Since you all glossed over the other, more interesting details of the photos, I’ll share some of the answers to questions you DIDN’T ask:

A: Milk in a bag… what a neat concept! Why yes it is. In fact we buy our regular milk in bags too (albeit in liter-sized bags). Less packaging = more environmentally friendly. Also from what I’ve observed, the bagged milk has a faster turnover rate in the store than the milk in more traditional packaging so it is probably slightly fresher too.

A: Why yes, Ari and Gili look sleepy because they woke up moments before I shoved the shoko/moka into their hands and snapped this photo. BTW, the white bathrobe Gilad is wearing was made from the white flannel runner that served as our wedding aisle. Zahava couldn’t bear to see all that soft white fabric thrown out, so she has used it for several worthy sewing projects such as this bathrobe.

A: Yes, that little dark shape next to Gilad’ knee is indeed Yonah. No he didn’t get a Shoko.

A: Yes, you heard me correctly… a retractable fountain pen. It fills and writes like a traditional fountain pen, but retracts into a sealed chamber like a modern ballpoint so you don’t risk any ink stains on your shirt.

Also, if you read through the comments... how cool is it to have a couple of German girls (ahem, women) discussing 'Krapfen' filling and season in English on my blog!.  I feel so international!!!  :-)

OK… now to the subject that seems to have diverted your collective attention from the more central themes of Friday’s Photos:

Yes, I’m wearing a gun. As I said before, if you want some general background about my reluctant decision to do so, go here. As to why it is so prominently displayed… that’s a reasonable question for which I have a reasonable answer:

Before I got married I had never heard of the concept of ‘fat clothes’ and ‘skinny clothes’. However, living in close proximity to a woman (and loitering within earshot while said woman talks with others of the species) I have discerned that, depending on the day, some cloths simply may or may not fit. Fascinating!

It wasn’t until I went on a diet and had to buy pants in a much smaller waist size that I began to understand the concept. My first such diet was very successful, although the success was rather short-lived. However, my wardrobe expanded to include a nice selection of clothing for whenever I might return to the less ‘husky’ version of myself.

As I am now almost 10 pounds lighter (and seemingly stuck on this plateau) I am starting to fit into some of my ‘skinny clothes’ again. However my gun, which is usually tucked discreetly inside my waistband and mostly obscured by the billowing folds of my shirts, no longer fits there. Instead, I have to wear a much more visible holster outside my pants… at least until another 6 or 8 pounds vacate the delicate area around my ‘love handles’ and belt.

Riveting stuff, huh? This should put a hefty dent in my stats.

Anyway, my dad was kind enough to share his version of the family recipe for chopped liver, but mine differs in enough ways that I will post it here:

Grandma Fay’s Chopped Liver (David’s version)


1 lb. fresh chicken liver

1 or 2 yellow onion

4-5 hard-boiled eggs


Olive Oil




Garlic Powder

* Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat. Whenever I go to the butcher for chicken, I ask him to put the skin he trims from the bird into a separate bag for me. Once a month or so I take out all the collected chicken skin and fry it up in a frying pan. As the skin gives up its fat, you pour it off into a container. You will do this several times before all the schmaltz is rendered and you are left  with crispy-fired chicken skin (also called ‘gribinis’ in Yiddish. Gribinis is a huge (although infrequent) treat in our house! Anyway, I always keep a big container of schmaltz in the fridge to add to pot pies, soups, meatloaf, etc. And, it is essential for frying onions and, ye... making chopped liver.

Into a large cast iron skillet put a couple of big dollops of schmaltz and place over medium flame. Coarse chop your onion and dump into the now hot frying pan. Sauté until onions are transparent and starting to turn brown (don’t burn the onions or it will give the chopped liver a smoky flavor!).  Put onions and schamltz drippings into a bowl.

My dad likes to cook the liver in with the onions, but because I keep kosher, the liver must be cooked under a broiler or on an open flame (complicated reason… e-mail me offline if you really want the full explanation). I broil the liver on my outdoor grill but you can do it on a cookie sheet in the oven (on the broil setting). Don’t overcook the liver or it will be too dry.

While the liver is cooking you can hard-boil your eggs and set out your other ingredients and a good mixing bowl.

Once you have all your ingredients in front of you, begin by putting almost all of your liver into the mixing bowl. The key here is to always hold some of each ingredient in reserve because you are going to be constantly adjusting the ratios. The goal is to make sure no one flavor dominates. Like having great seats at the symphony, you should be able to ‘hear’ each individual ‘performer’ just by concentrating on it.

Into the bowl with the liver you should add a big dollop of schmaltz. If you don’t have schmaltz (shame on you!) you can use olive oil, but it won’t be the same. Start mixing/chopping the liver until you come up with a fairly wet lumpy mixture. Don’t chop the liver too fine! Big chunks are ok. Now add most of your onions and 2 or 3 eggs. Now add a little more schmaltz/oil. Continue chopping/ mixing. You’re going for a coarse texture here… not a paste. Now add in a tablespoon of mayo and your seasonings (salt, pepper and garlic power to taste).

From this point on you should be constantly tasting the mixture to see what is needed. Too ‘livery’… add another egg. Not ‘livery’ enough… add more liver. Too dry… add a bit more of the onions and more schmaltz/oil.

As I said, the finished chopped liver should look something like what you see in my mixing bowl but it shouldn’t taste like any one of the ingredients.

Serve at room temperature.

One of my astute readers asked about the chopper in the picture. I hate it! This is a truly stupid design that does indeed need three hands to operate. There are much better single-blade choppers that are designed to be held in one hand, and I will be buying one very soon! You can find them in any good kitchen/cutlery shop. Also, a good wooden bowl is not essential but is very pleasant to work with.

I hope everyone outside of Israel enjoys the rest of their weekend… and to my fellow Israelis; Enjoy the new work week.

Posted by David Bogner on December 19, 2004 | Permalink


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gut vach
shmaltz is 100% cholesterol. my wife won't allow it in the house.

Posted by: dave | Dec 19, 2004 1:23:36 AM

Thanks for answering my question. It was a good answer.

Posted by: Alice | Dec 19, 2004 1:27:10 AM

Oh, and pray for that little man Josh right now. That's an order!

Posted by: Alice | Dec 19, 2004 1:30:41 AM

Dave... As I am on Atkins, schmaltz and all other fats/protiens are fine and dandy. My cholesterol numbers (bad & good) actually go down when I am on Atkins.

Alice... Any time, it's what I'm here for. And no need to ask... Little Joshua is already in my thoughts and prayers.

Posted by: David | Dec 19, 2004 1:10:53 PM

Hey, I mentioned the milk and the "you woke me up for this?" faces. Friday is their morning to sleep in, isn't it?

Here's the part where I get long-winded again: I presumed that my interpretation of "retractable fountain pen" was probably wrong because, well, that just can't be right. When you say it fills traditionally, do you mean from a pot of ink? Or does it have one of those cartridges? (Oops. I said cartridge.)

I'm still unclear on the milk. As a snack for kids, it makes sense, but how would you use it at home? Do they sell hangers like those banana racks? Or do you have to use the whole thing as soon as you open it? In other words, how do you keep it from spilling all over the fridge once it's open? And since drink-and-pass is pretty germ-intensive, is there a way to control pouring into glasses?

Oh, and my two favorite pairs of pants don't fit anymore, so I pin them with a safety pin on one side. I use the big pins they use at the dry cleaners, and they've never come undone (even thru several trips back to the cleaners, where they don't remove them for some reason...) It makes them look a little uneven, but it might help with your holster issue. If it even needs helping, apart from the delicate sensibilities of your gentle readers. :o)

Posted by: Tanya | Dec 19, 2004 4:16:56 PM

Tanya... Yes, Friday we all slept in (didn't you notice Doctor Bean going through withdrawal pains at 9:30AM local time? :-)

Anyway, you make some interesting points which I'll try to address:

1. Yes, a retractable fountain pen. it can be filled from an ink pot or use a cartridge, whichever you like. For more info, go here.

2. The milk iissue is easily solved by using a special plastic pitcher in which the thin plastic bag sits. This allows it to stand in the fridge and to be poured easily when needed (just snip off the corner). When the milk is gone, just take out the bag and drop in another one.

3. I'm trying to get a mental picture of you with your pants being held up by big safety pins. Tanya... let's just say I'm not quite that secure. :-) I would rather squeeze into the smaller pants than improvise with the ones that are too big. I hope to have enough extra wiggle room within a few weeks to go back to my more modest semi-concealed carry holster (IWB).

Posted by: David | Dec 19, 2004 4:54:19 PM

HAHAHA!! Maybe my pants aren't as loose as yours yet, huh? It really doesn't make me look like Baby Herman, I promise!

Posted by: Tanya | Dec 19, 2004 9:19:26 PM

How is this milk-in-a-bag concept so bizarre? and how can Americans and Canadians be so vastly different??

We have our milk in bags here (Canada) too. 1 litre (or whatever the quantity) bags fit in a pitcher, making is easy to pour. You usually buy these bags in in groups of three, which are then bagged together. Like buying a dozen eggs. If you do not want to commit to such a large quantity of milk, you can buy cartons of milk, but unlike my American friends we don't usually have those giant plastic jugs, which I find creepy on so many levels.
But what we *don't* have are those mini portable bags of Shoko goodness, which I am not ashamed to admit, I envy.

who knew milk could be such a topic of great discussion??
I'm gonna go grab me some milk (and cookies)

Posted by: celestial blue | Dec 19, 2004 9:56:59 PM

Tanya... Oh no... you shouldn't have done that! Now, I'm going to have trouble picturing anything else! Wonderful! :-)

Celestial... You mean to tell me that you are just now realizing that most Americans are completely oblivious to the customs and cultural nuances of their neighboring countries (not to mention the rest of the world). I lived most of my 40+ years within a days drive of Canada and didn't know you guys used bags for your milk.

Ontario = 'Yours to Discover'
New York = 'You want fries with that?'

Posted by: David | Dec 19, 2004 10:26:45 PM

Ah, chopped liver. A twice-a-year treat in our household (Pesach and Rosh Hashanah) and chicken soup substitutes for schmaltz for mosturizing the liver. (I know, we're talking sacriledge.)

I've never gotten the hang of putting the milk bags into the holder. Because of the moisture, the bags keep getting stuck about 1/3 - 1/2 way down.

What pistol? ;) It reminds me of the first time one of my friends came to Israel on a visit and mentioned how nervous she was seeing all these soldiers walking around with rifles. I told her that I'd be nervous if they weren't.

Posted by: jennifer | Dec 19, 2004 11:28:11 PM

Guns, chopped liver, milk bags, waitress cleavage! So much to write, but so many kids I should be playing with…. (I may have to write in multiple sittings.)

Since I am a new reader I went back to read your post on gun ownership (and then browsed through your archives and found your posts on your “midlife crisis” trip down Route 66 – they’re real gems).

Nobody else asked about the “busty waitress” analogy. I guess I’m the slow student. I don’t get it. It’s not like your underwear was showing. And if the busty waitress posted a picture of her cleavage on her web journal (I should be so lucky) I would assume she wanted (light-hearted and polite) remarks about it.

Re: the frustrations of the “weight loss plateau”. Don’t despair. This is when my patients are sorely tempted to quit. I’ve watched my wife go through the same misery after each pregnancy. Stick to the plan strictly, even if the results aren’t encouraging right now. I know it’s easier for me to say than for you to do. A plateau is actually very good compared to what would happen if you quit: you’d gain back the weight you’ve worked so hard to lose. If you stick with it inevitably the slow steady weight loss will resume.

Last, and least, re: your thoughts on gun ownership. I am a Republican non-NRA member, so the two are not redundant! I think widespread gun ownership is a good thing but I support state licensing and training programs that the NRA opposes. I don’t own a handgun partially because I have small children and do not wish to undertake the praiseworthy around-the-clock responsibility that you have chosen.

That older post closes with a remark that despite widespread firearms there is very little violence in Israel. There certainly may be other factors involved, but handgun advocates would argue (correctly, in my opinion) that it is because of the near universal ownership of firearms that violence is so infrequent.

Thanks again for the great reading.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Dec 20, 2004 12:20:52 AM

Jennifer... Since you have to skim your soup anyway, why not wait and use that (it's essentially 'schmaltz lite')? Just a suggestion.

As to the nervousness factor, I agree 100% with what you told your friend.

Doctor Bean... about the “busty waitress” analogy... Several comedians have made the observation that there are two things that men are powerless not to stare at in a diner (no matter how many times they've seen them): the waitresses cleavage and the beat cop's pistol. Both have a seemingly magnetic appeal to the male eye. I used the waitress line thinking that the original joke was more widely known. Like all jokes, there is more than a little kernel of truth at its core.

Thanks for the pep talk about my present plateau. It helped.

As to gun ownership, I wouldn't necessarily feel the same way in the states. There is something about the social fabric of the US... maybe it is the cowboy heritage... but there is a profound lack of respect for the damge that a gun can do. In order to bring the US gun ownership debate on an even footing with gun ownership here, you would have to change the entire culture and education sytem that exists there. Having a draft in place for a few decades might begin to scratch the surface, but there are other, more deeply held misconceptions about firearms (as art, power, cultural statement, political statement, criminal symbol, movie icon, etc.) that would need to be eliminated from the national lexicon. I don't know if that is possible. I've seen two armed Israeli men come to blows over some real or imagined insult... but in the course of their fight, it never occured to either of them to draw their weapons. I doubt that would be the case in Texas.

Posted by: David | Dec 20, 2004 9:14:19 AM

Hi David,

Thanks for the personal welcome. I would comment on more of your archived posts if (1) I had the time, and (2) I didn't feel silly discussing something that you thought of, wrote and debated nearly five years ago. BUT - I digress.

Although I'm a fan of chopped liver, gribinis (schkvaratchki in the Russian-Jewish lexicon), and other foods, I have never been taught/learned how to adequately 'kasher' liver. Can you enlighten me? You seem to say that all I have to do is buy the package that they sell of Make-Sure-You-Kasher-These livers from the local O-U/COR grocery, place them on a piece of aluminum foil/cookie sheet, and set the oven to broil? How long do I broil them? Does it traif up the oven? Only the foil? Can I do this in a toaster/convection oven?

I am not relying upon you to 'pasken' or manufacture any legal/halachic decisions here - somehow I've just never been able to conjure up how on Earth to make decent liver and onions from any other sources.


Posted by: Tanya | Jun 18, 2009 5:41:23 AM

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