Ashkenazi Jewish food may be undergoing somewhat of a revival within the American culinary scene, but this isn't exactly your bagels and lox: Meir Kalmanson, 25, a director based in Brooklyn, pulled together six friends of friends to try a handful of less well known, traditional Ashkenazi foods, and filmed their responses.
The result? "The Ultimate Chassidic Food Taste Test," a short video released on YouTube late last week.
The foods range from relatively familiar dishes such as herring with crackers ("You could take a girl out for this stuff, they like shiny things") to jiggly calves' foot jelly ("This looks like what I find inside my boot on a rainy day") and two types of cholent ("It looks like the cake your uncle tried to make but put in the oven for too long").
Kalmanson, a member of the Chabad Hassidic sect, says he was inspired by the internet video genre made popular by Buzzfeed that features people tasting foods from different countries or ethnic traditions.
In order to choose the menu, he asked a friend from the Satmar Hassidic sect to draw up a list of traditional foods that wouldn't be typically found in your average Kosher Jewish supermarket. While some of the foods such as cholent and herring were familiar from his childhood, while others were entirely new to him, he says.
He also intentionally chose taste testers who were unlikely to have heard of any of the foods.
The calves' foot jelly, which Kalmanson says his grandmother recalled from her childhood in Russia, proved not so popular. Jerusalem kugel and cholent, however, turned out to be easy sells.
Some of Kalmanson's previous videos have received considerable attention. One video, in which the production team turns a New York subway car into a dance club, pulled in 1 million views over the past month. Another video, in which Kalmanson walks down a New York City street giving high-fives to people trying to hail cabs, racked up 2 million views and was featured in a commercial for Android, Google's cell phone.