Friday, April 10, 2009

Matzo Matzo Matzo

I'm writing to you from sunny South Florida, as my abdomen decompresses from 2.5 days of almost nonstop Passover-induced eating.

We're visiting Jaimi's parents for the holiday, and have been treated to approximately 750 different forms of matzo - solid, liquid, gas, and other. There's the matzo brei (scrambled eggs and matzo), matzo kugel, matzo ball soup, matzo stuffing (for the turkey), super-heated molten matzo plasma, chocolate-covered matzo, and bacon-wrapped deep-fried matzo balls.

Okay, maybe I dreamed up a couple of those dishes for my next cookbook, "Matzo's Many Miracles: It Goes With Anything, Including Bacon."

But really, although matzo is nothing more than flour and water, baked to cracker-like consistency - and more closely resembles cardboard in flavor and aroma than it does actual food - I can't help but find comfort in it's happy crunch. When I eat matzo, it reminds me of days gone by - the days of the Israelites' escape from Pharaoh's Egypt, and their concomitant release from the bonds of slavery.

Matzo reminds me of this ancient time, mostly because that's the story read at every single Passover Seder - but also because it must have really sucked balls to have been a slave in Egypt a few thousand years back. And the suckiness of matzo really drives that point home, with the accuracy of the great pyramids' chiseled blocks. Which, by the way, my forefathers actually fashioned. Or so the story goes.

On a normal night, during a normal week, you may find me enjoying a warm, soft dinner roll, along with a deliciously cold yeasty beer. Maybe I'd follow that up with a hoagie, or some spinach ravioli. For dessert, a chocolate eclair, apple pie, and/or chocolate cake would end things on a high note, and prepare my body for 8 hours of hibernation - the rich, leavened foods, and hearty fermented grains keeping me alive during that period of voluntary starvation.

But during Passover, I can't have any of that good stuff. I eat matzo in its many forms, drink Manischewitz fortified grape wine out of a jam jar, or straight from the bottle (wrapped in a brown paper bag), and go to bed not knowing for sure whether I'll survive the night. Will my body devour itself? Will I accidentally eat my own face during an awful episode of sleep-eating?

You see, this is exactly the point. It brings us back to the times of our ancient elders - they lived day-to-day, and never knew if they would see tomorrow's sun. Whether slaving away in the brutal heat to build Pharaoh's massive pyramids, or running through the desert on a 40 year quest to find the Promised Land - it was an uncertain existence for them all.

We've got it WAY better than they did - what with our automobiles, digital watches, and iPhones. But for 8 days every year, we remember that incalculable suckiness of life under Pharaoh's rule. And matzo reminds of both of how bad that time was, and how good we have it now.

And also, it reminds me that I miss my beer very badly during this time - and if we put a man on the moon, why can't we develop a beer-like substance that's Kosher for Passover? Perhaps that's the real tragedy of this story.

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David said...

If there is bacon-flavored salt which is kosher, then can kosher beer be far behind?

The Mill said...

I think you're onto something truly game changing, without even intending it.

Kosher Bacon-flavored beer.