Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Breaking Matzoh

2011 is an odd year for me in terms of holidays.  The Jewish holidays, to be specific. In a nutshell, and I really will try to be concise here, when I was young my whole family gathered at my grandparent's house on LI for the Jewish holidays.  Everyone. Relatives from across the US would fly/drive/bike in. Family friends would be there. I helped my grandmother prepare the feast, and we would eat.  There would be stories and laughter and food.  Seriously, a lot of food.  I remember one year my grandmother made gefilte fish from scratch, and there were fish swimming in the bathtub.  I was 3.  Really, that isn't something you forget. 

The feasts would go something like this: gefilte fish with horseradish, soup, chopped liver on a bed of lettuce with cherry tomato garnish, more soup or gefilte fish, platters of roast chicken and brisket, potatoes, spinach pie, cranberry or some other fruit compote, carrots, greens, have seconds or thirds or fourths of whatever you wanted, and lots of matzoh or challah, depending on the holiday.  After 2-3 hours of feasting we would clear the table  (we being the women) and reset it for dessert.  Dessert was always brought in since my grandmother did all the other cooking.  Dessert was fun.  There were cookies, coffee, cakes, tea, pies, and maybe some fruit. After 2 hours of schmoozing and dessert munching folks would leave the table and waddle to the various sofas and chairs to chat, laugh and tell more stories.  These were epic gatherings, ingrained in my young brain.  It's no wonder to me that when I moved out of my parents' home I tried to have that same kind of holidays.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, but the fact remains that I love cooking for the holidays and enjoying them with as many people as possible.

Coming back to 2011, I say again that it's an odd year.  I don't have much blood family left, and my friends and chosen family are further away than in previous years.  Money isn't plentiful and food is expensive, so this Passover I didn't have a seder.  It was weird. I wanted to commemorate the holiday, however, so there was matzoh.  We had matzoh every day.  I made matzoh brei, and for the first time ever it turned out almost as good as my grandfather's.  I made matzoh pizza, which was a huge hit with DB.  I had open faced matzoh "sandwiches".  It wasn't seder, but it was a taste of Passover.  Then I got an email from my friend Mark. He was going to have an end-of-Passover dinner Monday night, and did I want to come.

I squee-ed.  Literally, I used my out-side voice and said, "SQUEE!"  I emailed him back immediately and asked what he needed.  I could make chopped liver, charoset, or some kind of dessert. I'd just seen 2 recipes for Passover kugel (one savory, one sweet).  He requested the sweet kugel. 

I made the apple matzoh kugel Monday afternoon.  Mind, I've NEVER MADE this before, so I had no idea how it would turn out. I changed the recipe slightly, as is my wont, packed it up, and drove to Mark's house.  A note: the dinner parties I've attended at Mark's have ranged from 5-15 people.  They're always filled with amazing food. Several of the folks who attend these parties are professional chefs.  To say that I was nervous about my kugel was an understatement.

I pulled into the driveway, and was a little surprised that I didn't see any other cars.  I went in, and it was just Mark.  There was soup bubbling on the stove, brisket bubbling away in the crock pot, and a jar of gefilte fish on the counter.  I asked where everyone was, and he said it would be the two of us and hopefully Leslie.  It was an intimate gathering.  That was cool.  Not what I was expecting, but cool. 

We caught up with each other (I'd been out of town for three months), and fought with the gefilte fish jar for about 30 minutes.  That sucker would NOT open.  I asked if Mark had run the jar under hot water, got a look of "Do what?" from him, and less than a minute later the jar was open.  Apparently he'd been struggling with the jar all week. 

We munched on matzoh crackers and cheese, had kosher wine (Not Manischewitz!!) and chatted.  Leslie arrived with some spinach, and we chatted some more. Leslie sauteed the spinach with garlic and olive oil, and then we sat down to eat. 

The feast was delicious.  Soup, gefilte fish with horseradish and matzoh, brisket, potatoes, sauteed spinach and salad. The wine flowed, the conversation was engrossing, and it was really wonderful.  Mark's retelling of the Passover story was fun and educational. It was lovely.  After dinner I dished out the kugel.  Did I mention Leslie is a professional chef? Did I mention she makes incredible desserts, has had her own bakery and her food is divine? Yeah.  So I serve the kugel and they both LOVE it. By the end of the night the 2 quart kugel pan was more than half gone.  To know that these two people with very discriminating tastes enjoyed a recipe I'd never cooked before made me happy.  To know that I helped feed people for Passover made me happy.  To actually celebrate Passover with friends, and have a small seder filled me with joy. It wasn't too big, it wasn't too small.  To quote Goldilocks, this seder was just right.

It was a pleasure to end the holiday by breaking matzoh with my friends.  You'll have to excuse me now, because I've got some brisket leftovers in my fridge that are begging to be eaten for lunch.



  1. I'm glad you had such a lovely seder...I only wish I'd had the chance to have one, myself. My uncle Marvin died a few years back, and he was the patriarch of tradition in my family in Rochester...so there's not been a family seder in 2 years. My mum always invites me to wherever she's going...but never in time to actually make it there. I miss the family holidays, especially this year, when my non-Jewish family cancelled Easter, too. ~shrugs~ Here's hoping the rest of the year works out well for us both!
    Love you! :-*

  2. I wish we had been able to get together. We should try to do that more often, especially since we're not that far apart distance wise any more.

    The seder was so low key, and such a treat to visit with friends in a small gathering.

    You know, we could always have a post-Passover seder. All the food and conversation, none of the Religion. :grin:

    Love you too, darlin'.



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