Manischewitz and I go way back. Manischewitz matzo is one of the things that remind me of home. Around Passover, my mom would bring home a case. (She had to buy a case because 9 pieces per box, for a family of five, wasn’t going to cut it.) It was doled out and my dad always had to have the first and last piece out of each box.
Before we go any further, for those of you who have no idea what Matzo is, let me brief you. Matzo is the Yiddish word for the unleavened flatbread that is part of Jewish cuisine. It’s an important element of the Passover festival, during which leaven bread is forbidden. It’s a flat, cracker-esque bread. Ground it can be used as breadcrumbs to make other things like Matzo ball soup. During Passover, the matzo must be made from plain flour and water. Matzo may be soft or crisp. Soft matzo is more or less a kosher flour tortilla. I have never seen the soft matzo. In essence, crispy matzo is a giant Saltine, only it tastes better.
Whenever a new box of matzo came into the house, my family would gather around the table. We would each slide our piece of perforated flatbread on to our unfolded paper napkins (matzo are too big for a curved plate). We would slather our matzos with peanut butter and mom’s homemade jelly, or butter and cinnamon sugar, or cream cheese and mom’s strawberry jam. I’m not gonna lie, crunchy peanut butter is a little hard to spread. (I didn’t know there were other ways to eat Matzo until recently. I see I need to up my game. (Check out these 27 ways to eat Matzo.)
Gathering around matzo had us admiring each others condiment combinations. We had competitions to see who could break their matzo into perfect strips along the perforations. It was family communion. Even though we always had dinner together as a family, gathering around matzo was special, like Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas brunch.
Now when I see matzo in the Kosher section of the grocery store, I give it a nostalgic nod. In the early years, you could only find matzo around Passover. Now you can get it all year round. In fact, it’s January, and I just bought a box. Whenever I am feeling a little homesick for those days, Manischewitz and I sit down with mom’s homemade jam and break bread.