My Dad loves to tell people who have never eaten Jewish food that the only edible part of the matzo is the balls. He likes to say it to people as they have a matzo ball on their spoon jammed halfway into their mouths. You should see their eyes bulge. You can actually hear the inner workings of their brains as the cogs creak as they frantically search for the answer to the question in their heads: “OK. Do I eat this to be polite or spit it out into the napkin and save myself from eating matzo scrotum?”
Well, let me put your mind at ease. Matzo is made from matzo meal, which is merely flour and salt. Sometimes it also has eggs in it. Or it can have onions or other flavorings added to it. But it never has anything even remotely related to balls of any kind. No scrotumnal tissue is in matzo balls, so they’re safe to eat. And they’re delicious. May lightening strike me if I am telling you a lie. Whoa. That’s quite a storm brewing outside! Just kidding! (Actually, we are going to get more snow today IN APRIL. But, hey, I live near Chicago. I should be used to this by now!)
Sunday, April 5th, 2009
I am waiting for the water to boil so I can put my matzo balls into the hot water to cook them for Passover, which begins this coming Wednesday night. I make matzo balls every once in a while because they’re really good, even when it’s not Passover. But, making them always causes me lots of anxiety because I will never forget my first experience making matzo balls. Oy.
I made my first matzo balls right after Richard and I got married and had our families over for one of the Jewish holidays. I followed the directions on the package, and then set the bowl of batter in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to let it set and get firm. In the meantime, I put a huge pot of water on the stove and waited for it to boil. Once the matzo ball batter is ready, you are supposed to roll it into balls about the size of a walnut and then drop them into the boiling water for about 20 minutes.
I did as the package instructed and shaped my little matzo balls into the walnut size they were supposed to be. But, I thought they looked a little small so I padded them with more batter. Into the boiling water they went. I was so proud. My first matzo balls. They were so cute!
But then they began to grow. And then they grew some more. It was like a scary movie! It was…”Attack of the Killer Matzo Balls!”
I became frantic as water began spilling out of the pot as it was being displaced by the giant, growing wads of batter. I heard a strange, hysterical laughter coming from behind me. Did one of the matzo balls escape and was now standing behind me with a butcher knife? I turned around slowly only to see my husband Richard laughing at me as he does so often and so well.
This time, I made the most perfect looking balls I have ever seen. I rolled the batter into the suggested walnut size, and then plopped them into boiling water for 20 minutes. They came out perfect. I even froze them on cookie sheets and then put them into plastic freezer bags, as Mom had suggested. If you don’t let them freeze separately on a cookie sheet before you put them all together in freezer bags, they fall apart or glob together into matzo mush.
So, I am excited to serve them on Wednesday night. I just hope they taste as good as they look.
Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
We read the story of how Our People escaped from the clutches of mean old Pharaoh and the horrors of slavery in Egypt. We dipped our fingers in wine and spilled a drop as we recited the ten plagues that God sent as warnings to Pharaoh to let our people go. Pharaoh ignored the warnings until the last one, the slaying of the first born child, caused his own son to die.
We dipped our fingers in the wine to symbolize our sadness that the blood of other people needed to be shed in order for us to be free. Our cup of joy (wine) should not have been complete because other people had to die for our salvation.
While these plagues affected the Egyptians, they “passed over” the Jews , hence the word “Passover”. (Get it? Passover? It took me years of watching “The Ten Commandments” to get that). The Jews had lambs’ blood on their doorposts (now known as Mezuzahs) so the Angel of Death would pass over our houses.
Anyway, being who I am, I found “plague masks” at the grocery store and bought them, but when I opened the package I realized the elastic on them was a little small. Gee, do you think it’s because the masks were meant to be worn by children, not adults? So, I took out my trusty hot glue gun and some dowels and attached the masks to the dowels. And, because we were going to be 13 people and there were only 10 plagues, I added the following plagues:
I added carbuncles because my Dad has one on his shoulder. I had never heard the word before and doubted it was even a real word. But I looked it up and there it was.
So, I handed out the masks at the table, and as you can see from the photos, we each represented one of the plagues. It was the best Passover ever, and my balls tasted as good as they looked.