A shortage of gefilte fish has the city's Jewish population in a desperate search for something to supplement their meals for Passover, which began last night. This winter's endless Polar Vortex wreaked havoc on fisheries located in the Great Lakes and western Canada, the country's largest suppliers of whitefish used to make the polarizing dish. Shops all over the city are feeling the pinch as celebrants grow increasingly desperate for the traditional—though not required—sedar accompaniment; that's a lot of stress for something once described as a "cat food."
The Times spoke with shop owners in the city's most densely populated Jewish neighborhoods like Crown Heights and Williamsburg, all of whom have spent the past few weeks flustered and nervous for the impending holiday. "In all my years making gefilte fish, it has never been this bad," says Benzion Raskin, owner of Crown Heights's BenZ's. "I can't remember a time with so little fish." The shop was forced to stop taking orders two weeks ago.
Things are just as bad a block away at Raskin's Fish Market, where they're accustomed to dozens of pounds of whitefish a day; this year, it's much less. "You feel very badly when a customer comes in and she wants to buy 30 pounds and you only have five," owner Schlomo Raskin lamented to DNAinfo.
The Manischewitz company, the largest producer of gefilte fish, planned ahead for a possible shortage and are now sitting pretty on a stockpile of both fresh and frozen fish. "We’ve been through enough lean times in the past to have learned our lesson and plan ahead," explained vice president for operations Randall Copeland. Jars of the stuff are being sold at supermarkets and specialty markets alike; yes, there is such a thing as artisanal gefilte fish. When it comes to tradition, however, many are purists for the jarred stuff. "I don’t think I'd like the real stuff, because to me, this is Passover," explained shopper Wendy Greene.