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Traditions and Flavors Bring Back Memories

by Nanci Levy | Apr 29, 2016

matzah brei - 4-27-16- betty2What do you think of when you think about Passover? The story of the Jews’ exodus out of Egypt? The four questions? Singing “Chag Gadya” with your family? For many, Passover also conjures up fond memories of matzah ball soup and brisket, potato kugel and tzimmes. It seems that whenever you ask anyone about memories of their favorite holiday, food usually plays a huge role. The foods that we eat during holidays are often a big part of the tradition of the holiday. Thanksgiving makes most people think about roasted turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.  Hanukkah is associated with the delicious potato latkes that mom used to make. Food even plays a large role in the observance of some holidays. Matzah, horseradish, parsley, and charoset (mixture of chopped fruit, nuts and wine) are all essential parts of the Passover Seder.

At Handmaker we try to prepare many of the foods that are traditionally served during the observance of the Jewish holidays. These foods are part of many of our residents’ traditions and memories. And since Handmaker is their home, we want them to feel at home.

But what is interesting about this, is that while Handmaker may have served a delicious brisket at the first night Passover Seder this year, it was not necessarily the brisket that everyone remembers from their childhood, although it was still tasty to everyone. Even within a religion’s traditions, there are many individual family traditions, especially when it comes to food.

In a recent conversation with Handmaker residents on this subject, the issue of matzah brei came up. Matzah brei is a dish of Ashkenazi Jewish origins made from matzah and egg. This sounds simple enough, but there are dozens if not hundreds of ways to make this dish. Some like it savory, some like it sweet. Some like it fried up like a pancake, others prefer it like a scrambled egg. So this year we decided to give the Handmaker residents an opportunity to make their own matzah brei however they liked it. The crumbled their matzah the way they liked. They soaked it in water to soften it to their preferred consistency. They cracked and beat the egg in the manner that they chose. There were some sweet, and some savory flavors added. We even had to make a run to the kitchen to get some apples and walnuts for a resident who liked to make it that way. They enjoyed comparing their different methods and techniques, and the memories that cooking brought up. So, while there were a variety of recipes even within this small group of residents, the end result was the same for all, delicious! And it brought back many delightful memories, while creating a few new ones as well.