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Ore and let davven.™

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Why do people eat chulent?

Chulent is objectively bad. So why do people eat it?

There are those who grew up with it. To them it's the best food ever, and what's more, they are seriously not able to understand how you can feel differently, just taste it, man! (Food psychologists have long been aware of this porridge phenomenon™: it's exclusively the connection to childhood that makes people crave for the food of their childhood, entirely independent of the food's actual taste or value and even independent of whether their childhood was any good. Basically a variant of conditioning.) And in addition the idea that chulent is something good has been told to them all the time. Strangely, their parents as well as cooks in their city were raised with a much better version, but the cooks asked everybody not to talk about it, because it's bad for business. Of this group, about one in four either looks for healthier variants of chulent or goes vegan right away. They don't have many doubts about health issues, but they miss the taste from time to time.

Then there are those who didn't grow up with it. As a rule, they recognise the stuff's got a ghastly taste, its nutritional value is on a low level, and the burned parts are even harmful.

But there are some who first ate it clearly after their childhood, and yet profess a great fondness for it now. Of course, some change the recipe, ignore the burnt parts, add spices and all kinds of things until you don't see it anymore, maybe even add some cream that suspiciously looks like milchigs though they say it's soy, put some pot in and top it with a flower.

But there are others who don't and who rather burn it more because they claim that's the "best part" until even the baleboste shakes her head.

The reasons are difficult to pin down. Some heard those of the first group praise chulent, and they themselves simply don't have a well working sense of taste, maybe were born with insufficient tastebuds.

Others do have working tastebuds as such, but they don't work right, also they only note overly strong flavours. They change their preferences sometimes, as long as it's a strong flavour. Some wouldn't have eaten anything but falafel before and couldn't have enough charif on it, and next year they might live on Cuban rum or Soviet-era vodka that can't be highproof enough.

Others were raised with an entirely different cuisine, such as watery knuckles of pork and sausages. They only heard of chulent because when he was young, whereever their grandfather and his friends came across a bowl of it, they used to pee in it. He still chuckles sometimes. So, on the one hand, they are disgusted by Grandpa's pranks, but on the other, they secretly don't like chulent, maybe even because it made them lose respect for Grandpa. People from this group typically claim that someone in Granny family used to burn the pork, too, but nobody's really buying that.

Others again always ate a kind of chulent, just not so burnt. Still bad food, so they quietly took supplement pills or, more pathetically, tried to convince people that the burnt parts contain exactly the same stuff as the supplement pills. Some day they gave up, especially as their own chulent didn't look as fancy as the other one, and they felt a treat should be a treat to look at, too. All the time before, they had the erroneous feeling that their chulent was a diluted version, not that the other one was much like theirs originally, except for the additives maybe.

Others again sadly had great juicy yummy hammin or schalet at home, but hardly anybody knows how to prepare that today - it takes a bit more time and skill and isn't as easily identified in the deli counter, and there are basically no professional cooks left who could help. (By the way, country-style schalet is at least as good as urban nouvelle cuisine schalet.) Some guys actually try to use printed recipes and the like, but they don't get all the ingredients right and they're usually spending most of the day in smoky chulent kitchens. So it's got a somewhat artificial taste and is still burnt anyway.