Sunday, April 8, 2012

Matzo Balls, Soft and Fluffy

For dinner tonight, Gilda and I polished off the last of the matzo balls and chicken soup left over from Friday night’s first Passover seder. Gilda boils light, fluffy matzo balls, just like my mother used to make. I know there are some who consider a matzo ball’s density the true test of culinary art. Suffice to say, I subscribe to the belief that hard matzo balls could substitute for cannon balls, while dissolve-in-your-mouth matzo balls are to die for.

One year during the seder in my parents’ home, the matzo balls almost turned into an orthodontic disaster. Without telling anyone, my mother hid a blanched almond inside each matzo ball. Her unsuspecting family and guests assumed they would easily melt inside their mouths. The crunch and resistance we all felt made everyone uneasy. Too embarrassed to say anything, we wondered if she had somehow mixed chicken bones into the matzo ball batter. When she finally noticed everyone avoiding finishing their matzo balls, she volunteered that she had hidden a “surprise” inside each sphere. Enlightened and relieved, we gobbled up the rest, and thereafter joked about it at all subsequent seders.

We had a small, manageable crowd of 18 hungry souls at the seder table this year. For the first time in many years my cousin Michael, with his wife, Mary, drove up from Baltimore. Michael filled the void created when his mother, the last survivor of our aunts and uncles, moved last year to Kansas with his younger brother, Steve, and his wife, Grace. It felt right to have someone representing Aunt Lily’s side of the family.

This was the first year Finley “participated.” He sat next to his mother, for the most part transfixed, intently watching and smiling as we performed various rituals and recited prayers. I think he most appreciated the grape juice he drank as part of the ceremony. He must have been enthralled with the proceedings as he stayed awake talking to his crib companions for about an hour after Allison and Dan put him to bed.

So far, Finley has not discovered the joy of matzo ball soup. But if he’s anything like his dad, he will. One of Dan’s lasting memories of my mother was her spoon-feeding him matzo ball soup when we’d visit her in Brooklyn. GG’s (Grandma Gilda’s) matzo balls are sure to find a soft spot in Finley’s heart in the months ahead.