Harsh Winter Means Short Supply Of Whitefish During Passover
By Jeff Bossert
This year’s harsh winter in the Midwest has meant a challenge for some Jewish families during Passover.
The deep freeze in the Great Lakes contributed to a shortage of whitefish during the week-long celebration that concludes Tuesday.
Whitefish’s often used to make the traditional gefilte fish, a kind of fish roll.
Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, who is the director of the University of Illinois’ Chabad Center for Jewish Life, said family members in New York say they have had to use other options, like pike and salmon.
“You realize so many foods you rely on in the regular supermarket are full of non-kosher Passover items, and it really puts you in touch to what you eat," he said. "Making everything, and using only fresh ingredients – having this story of the whitefish really – many people don’t even realize – the detail, of what we have on our table, how everything that goes around you effects your table, and effects your environment.”
Tiechtel said some Jewish families around Champaign ordered pre-packaged whitefish far enough ahead of time that the shortage didn't affect them.
Bart Basi, who owns Cheese and Crackers Specialty Food Market in Champaign, said the catch saw huge delays due to the weather in Lake Erie and Lake Huron. He said the only whitefish he’s been able to sell was ordered well in advance.
“Ninety percent of the fish I sell is pre-sold," he said. "So we saw these orders coming in, I made phone calls to boats. I said look, this is what I need, and I got my fish shipped directly to me.”
Basi admits some Jewish customers who came in during the week-long Passover celebration that ends tomorrow were simply out of luck. He said some orders of whitefish were diverted elsewhere, since Champaign-Urbana doesn’t have a large Jewish population.