“Mom! Why are we doing Passover again this year? Do we have to? It’s so boring. Can’t we skip it? Why do we even do it?”
Her whiny complaints were delivered at staccato speed, like the dangerous bullets of a machine gun. Faced with such a torrent of opposition, I simply had to get on my high horse to deliver a little lecture about the importance of taking the time to celebrate tradition. It seemed especially appropriate considering that Passover is a storytelling holiday, when Jewish families everywhere read the Haggadah, passing on to newer generations the tale of the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.
We’re an interfaith family with a patchwork of traditions from both sides of the family. We light candles at Hannukah and decorate the Christmas tree. We celebrate Passover, and hunt for Easter eggs a few weeks later. Our Christian traditions are secular, more based my fun memories than religious doctrine. And our Jewish traditions are more rooted in religion, but more home-based rather than temple-affiliated. We’re learning as we go, answering questions as they come, forging our family’s identity as we grow.
So I answered her many questions.
I told her that we celebrate Passover, even when we’re not with family, to take the time to remember our roots and to tell a really interesting story. Twelve months is a lifetime in her 8-year old eyes, but when she sits down to the fancy white tablecloth and she smells the chicken soup with matzo balls wafting from the kitchen, distant memories will become new again. Holiday by holiday, bowl of soup by bowl of soup, her personal identity is being formed.
Matzo Ball Soup
For the Soup:
1 Small Chicken, rinsed and patted dry
3 Quarts of Water
1 pound of baby carrots, cut into large chunks
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
salt to taste
1 bouquet garni spice sack (your combination of parsley, thyme, marjoram, sage, peppercorns, and dry bay leaves)
For the Matzo Balls:
2 tablespoons oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Matzo Meal
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons soup stock
- In a large stockpot, heat oil. Add the chopped onions and saute for 5 minutes, until softened.
- Add the carrots and stir to coat with oil. Saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently so the onions do not burn.
- Add the chicken, salt, and spice sack. Pour enough water on top to cover the chicken. Set the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil.
- Boil on high for a good 10 minutes then lower the heat to medium for a strong simmer.
- Cook for 1 1/2 hours. Then remove the chicken carefully.
- Meanwhile, prepare the Matzo balls. Mix the oil and eggs together. Stir in the Matzo meal, salt, and chicken stock til thoroughly mixed.
- Place in fridge for 15 minutes.
- Remove from fridge and form into 1 inch balls by rolling the mixture into the palm of your hand.
- Place in 3 quarts of boiling salted water. Cook for 30 minutes, covered tightly.
- Remove from the boiling water and set in a covered container in the fridge until your soup is ready.
- Take the meat off the chicken and return to the pot. Your soup is now ready.
- Add the cooked matzo balls to the soup when ready to serve.