From an ancient oral legend, as recounted on many an Irish-Jewish St. Patrick's day night by Mark Hoolihan and Dan Lerner after several shots of kosher slivovitz.Why...
...because the fish told me to.
The Legend of the Mighty Gefilte
In ancient times, along the shores of lake Galilee, there lived a mighty Jewish fisherman (who was a Maccabee). One year the people of his village were suffering from a horrible famine. So they went to the venerable old fisherman and asked him if he would go out, one last time and attempt to find a fish that could save the village. The villagers knew what they were asking was dangerous, for only one fish could feed the whole village, the legendary Mighty Gefilte Fish.
The mighty fisherman agreed, as he could see the people had no choice. He gathered up his nets and set out for one last journey, his most important journey yet. He sailed out far, far from land to the deep water (where the Gefilte swim wild and free). He waited for high noon when the sun shone on the waters and legend has it the Mighty Gefilte rise from the depths (and play happily in the sun). And then he cast his nets upon the waters.
Lo and behold he caught a fish, not just any fish, a Mighty Gefilte Fish! He struggled with the fish, but the Mighty Gefilte struggled back. Day and night they struggled and struggled, this old man and the Gefilte.
Finally in desperation, the old man called out to the spirit of the Gefilte, "Oh Mighty Gefilte, you have struggled bravely, but hear my plea, my people are starving and will not survive to recount tales of the Mighty Gefilte to future generations. I implore you as a pious fisherman to help save my people." And the Mighty Gefilte answered back, "Very well, since you have struggled well and respected the spirit of the Mighty Gefilte, I will surrender myself unto you and your people on one condition: You must preserve some of my flesh in jars in a strange yellowish or jelly like substance, so future generations may taste and know of the greatness of the Mighty Gefilte."
And so it was agreed, and the Mighty Gefilte surrendered his spirit unto the fisherman. And when he returned to the village they perserved the flesh of the Mighty Gefilte in jars, but soon found there was only enough Gefilte to feed the village for one day. But lo and behold as they ate of the Gefilte fish there was enough to feed the village for eight days. And ever since, whenever little Jewish boys and girls are forced to eat of the Gefilte, they too know of the strength, courage and sense of humor of this Mighty fish.
Editor's Note: That is not the whole Megillah. Historians and Archaeologists continue to find more evidence of the ancient Gefilte. Recent digs in the Dead Sea have discovered the fossilized remains of Cambrian-era Gefilte.
Historians now cite control of the Gefilte Fish Market as one of many tensions leading to the Maccabee Revolt. Biblical Scholars have found a lost passage from Josephus citing Gefilte as the main provision of the defenders of Masada.
Recent controversy erupted among historians studying the "Golden Age of the Gefilte" in Eastern Europe and its consequent end during the Second World War. The most prominent work on this is Daniel Jonah Machwitzen's "Hitler's Willing Fishermen: Ordinary Germans and the Great Ichthyocide."
Interdisciplinary research has found cross cultural connections to the Gefilte's salt water cousin, the Lutefisk.
Marine biologists have recently been able to record some of the mysterious songs of the Gefilte, including the classic hit, "Singing in the Chrein."
As more of these items come to light, you can be sure the Hoolinet will keep you informed!