Monday, September 3, 2018

Quarter Chicken or Burekas - aka The Engineer and The Engineer's Wife

Searching for the Fuchs couple
Four months ago, I was contacted by a woman in Efrat who wanted to find her possible relatives Sigmund (Chaim) Fuchs and his wife Bella, who had come to Israel from the US maybe fifty years ago. (Her sister visited them in Ramat Gan in 1976.)

I was not able to turn up anything significant - not even graves - though Bella appears to have been alive twenty-five years ago. In the meantime she learned that they were not actual relatives, just people her parents knew who were called "aunt" and "uncle."

But something about those names gnawed at me. I was sure I had heard of this couple before. This Chaim and Bella Fuchs.

The Comedians
Two of the premier Israeli comedians of the previous generation were Yossi Banai (1932-2006) and Rivka Michaeli (who is still with us at age eighty). They did a number of sketches together, including one written by Hanoch Levin in about 1970 called "Quarter Chicken or Burekas." It was also known popularly as "The Engineer and the Engineer's Wife."

See it here.

The couple are at a wedding and he keeps worrying whether they will be served a quarter chicken as was the custom in those days, or if the cheapskate family would serve only burekas. She on the other hand was concerned that the hosts and other guests would not realize that he is an engineer (rather than a technician or a clerk) and she an engineer's wife.

They went back and forth on these two subjects for the whole seven minute sketch. Maybe there will be chicken, but not dark meat. Or maybe there will be a choice but they will start serving from the other side of the room. Or there won't be proper fries with it. Or the groom's side won't know they are an engineer and an engineer's wife.

Trust me - if you knew Israel back then, it was very very funny. It is still funny but in a very different way.

At 5:45 of the clip, they decide that they cannot stand the tension any longer and are going home. Home, where no one doubts that they are an engineer and an engineer's wife. Because, as she says, there is a sign on the apartment door "Engineer and Engineer's WIfe, Chaim and Bella Fuchs."

Sometimes we remember very old things. Just because. You never know where a solution will come from.

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