Monday night is the beginning of Passover, what we Jews call Pesach. The festival commemorates the hasty flight from Egypt, the Exodus.Pesach is a celebration of some duration — eight days in fact and as such preparations begin long before. There are various tasks which are performed even in a secular home such as mine. For me these involve mainly extended shopping expeditions, but it is not so easy for Orthodox Jewish women. In Orthodox homes preparations begin with the removal of all chametz or leaven, from the home. Leaven is literally the substance that makes bread rise, yeast most commonly.
Everyone looks forward to the meal eaten on the first night – the seder, the central set piece of the celebration of Passover. “Seder”, comes from a Hebrew root word meaning “order”, and indeed the meal will progress in an orderly fashion, each piece of the story represented by a food item.
There was no time to allow the bread to rise and so we eat matzo, flatbread. Tracey Rich adds that: “It is also a symbolic way of removing the ‘puffiness’ (arrogance, pride) from our souls”
So the flattened matzo sheets are used instead of bread. After 8 days there may be uncomfortable digestive repercussions. Matzo is also ground and rendered into flour (matzo meal), fine medium or coarse. The finest matzo meal is used for baking cakes and biscuits. I use coarse ground for my kneidlach, (matzo meal dumplings) since fine meal would make the kneidlach too solid. There are many families who like them that way, I’m told.
As Oded Schwartz has observed:
There are two opposing schools of thought about the making of these simple, delicious dumplings: one maintains that they have to be ‘as light as a feather and quiver under their own weight’ and the other, which is almost as popular, insists on a heavy, substantial kneidlach ‘which will sink to the bottom of the plate’. (94)
My mother’s recipe should produce “light as a feather” dumplings.
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons cold water
pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper
Then add coarse matzo meal, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture drops from the spoon, loose but not runny, should make a ‘bloop’ sound as it drops. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Roll into little balls (use about a teaspoon of mixture) with wet hands, drop into rapidly boiling, salted water and cook for thirty minutes, or until cooked through. This quantity will make 12- 15 kneidlach.