May 1st

theresa albert - my friend in food


Confessions of a Seder-Matzochist


Most Jewish holiday festivals follow a similar theme: They tried to kill us; we’re still here; let’s eat.  However, Passover is special.   Why?   Because “Let’s eat” is such a huge part of the ritual.   Observant Jews do a full cleaning of every nook and cranny of their houses before the festival begins (is it any wonder I’m not observant?) and then eat only sanctioned foods for the week long holiday period.

Most famous of all this special food is Matzah (or Matzo), a cracker made from just flour and water which commemorates the haste with which the Hebrews fled Egypt in the Exodus story (their “bread” had no time to rise so no leavening is permitted).   The reason for its fame is that most observant Jews get pretty sick of the stuff within a few days.  It’s tasteless and it binds the digestive tract something awful giving a whole new meaning to the saying “Let My People Go”.   Moreover, crushed Matzah, known as Matzah meal is used instead of flour in a multitude of dishes, giving those edibles the relative weight of a Buick.

Yet Jews are a resourceful people and over the years many have found ways to make this Passover staple (actually a staple might be tastier) more palatable:  Matzah Pizza (which is not a temple in Peru), Matzah Brye (sort of like french toast only without the bread) and best of all, chocolate coated Matzah.   My favourite incarnation is caramel chocolate Matzah because, honestly, you put enough butter and sugar on cardboard and it will taste amazing.

The most renowned recipe using Matzah meal is Matzah ball soup.  These traditional dumplings are a very big deal both in and out of the culture.  Family battles rage over whether they should be hard and bouncy or light and fluffy (I’m in the latter camp).  There’s even a joke about the first time George Bush was served Matzah Ball soup in which he claims it was “mighty tasty” and remarks “the Matzah must be a very large animal”.

There are those, Jews and non-Jews alike, who will tell you that Matzah is actually delicious whether on its own or as a delivery system for cream cheese, butter or chopped liver.   Some even claim they love it and consider it a delicacy.   It’s my theory that those are people who do not have to eat it for eight days straight.   I think next year, I’m going to give it up for Lent.



Ilana Waldston is the mother of two teenage girls who keeps sane by singing. A graduate of the prestigious International Cabaret Conference at Yale, she’s been delighting Toronto audiences with her comedic patter and well-honed ability to sell a song. She’s a self-professed foodie, loves to bake, travel and dine (often all at once) who sometimes sings of food in songs such as “My Diet Starts Tomorrow”, “Dieter’s Prayer” and “Foodblooz”. In addition to her solo work, she’s also a part of Toronto’s only female jazz quartet, The Satin Dolls...


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