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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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                              RUMINATIONS AND RANTS FROM LAGUNA BEACH

JULY 13, 2006

The Herring Maven

During his visit to Germany, some German fisherman gave George W. Bush a barrel of herring as a present:
Greeting Merkel and city residents, Bush is full of charm. He says "good morning," mentions the gorgeous weather and thanks a local fisherman for the present he gave the president: a barrel of Bismarck herring.
Normally, I don't associate W. with Woody Allen, whose comedy Love and Death involves a herring merchant:
As if it wasn't bad luck enough, the second blow of fate is struck when the secret love of his heart and a frequent opponent in philosophical disputes, his beautiful cousin Sonja (Diane Keaton) decides to marry a foul smelling herring merchant Leonid Voscovec ("When something hurts herring, it hurts me") right before Boris' departure to the war.
However, I made an immediate association, notwithstanding the fact that even Mel Brooks's Yiddish-speaking Indian chief did not ride the range with herring in his saddlebags.

The connection to Israel's troubles in the Middle East is, presumably, coincidental.

The now closed Swedish restaurant Gustaf Anders, in Costa Mesa, Califonria, used to serve four kinds of herring. Tasty, if you like that sort of thing. And the herring was not only an important food fish, second only to cod, but was the subject of many jokes:
You've heard, perhaps, the one about the Jew who asks his friend a riddle: "What is green, hangs on the wall and whistles?"

The answer, as it turns out, is a herring. "But a herring isn't green," protests his friend.

"Nu, paint it green."

"But a herring doesn't hang on a wall."

"So, hang it on a wall."

"But a herring doesn't whistle!"

"I know," says the man. "I just put that in to make it hard."

Or the one about the herring that complains to a restaurant customer, "What's the matter, you don't eat no more at Ratner's?" Or Woody Allen's parody of chasidic tales, which turns on the question of whether a man's daughter most closely resembles a matjes or a Bismarck herring. Or any one of countless others — the point being that the herring, like the surly waiter or the arrogant beggar, has become, oddly enough, one of the defining motifs of Jewish humor.
If you are abundant, fatty, and easy to preserve, you have a place in history.

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