Having grown up in rural northern Michigan, my exposure to Jews, Jewish culture and Jewish food was limited to the Dreidel song by Raffi, the Hanukkah song by Adam Sandler and what I read in the Bible. Not exactly an in depth cultural exposure.
Last night I attended a seder for the first time. In the last week I did more reading about Jewish traditions and doctrine than I think I ever have, which led me to reflect on how little I knew about it growing up. That train of thought led me to think about my first encounter with Jewish food.
When I was 14 my dad brought me to Chicago for an event of some sort. For dinner one night we went to a neighborhood restaurant near the hotel. I saw something called “Matzo ball soup” and was pretty excited. You see, I love cheese. I like trying new kinds of cheese, I love cheese on just about everything. I am also a terrible speller. My naive 14 year old brain thought it was Mozzarella ball soup, abbreviated. I HAD to have it, so that’s what I ordered.
When the bowl of soup came out with the softball sized Matzo ball I was eager to dig in. I quickly realized that it wasn’t cheese. Despite the disappointment that it wasn’t a huge cheese ball, I still enjoyed the soup. The question “What on earth is a Matzo ball?” has echoed around my mind from time to time since that day.
I am happy to say that in preparing for the seder dinner this week, I finally know what it is. Matzo (aka Matzah, Matzoh, Matsah) are the un-leavened bread/crackers commonly eaten by Jews at passover. The Matzo crackers I had have the taste of a slightly burnt saltine cracker. Those Matzo breads are crushed to make Matzo meal, which is then formed into Matzo balls.
So happy Passover to everyone, and even if you aren’t Jewish go enjoy a good Matzo ball soup. Just don’t be expecting cheese.