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Culture & Religion

Architectural Matzoh Balls

The Washington Post’s Bonnie S. Benwick explores the art and architecture of matzoh balls and describes the celebrations at a traditional Passover dinner table.

“Each year at Passover, after someone’s child asks the Four Questions that begin with ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?,’ one more pops in my head: Why are tonight’s matzoh balls better than mine? This is a momentary lapse I am not proud of. Retelling the Jews’ exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt is the first order of business at the Seder! Food rituals rate a close second, though. Sinus-clearing fresh horseradish, a carrot pudding, the prettiest green vegetables from the farmers market, a brisket that smacks of sweetness and some form of flourless chocolate dessert are always on the table we share with family members and friends. Some guests pass on the first offering — gefilte fish — but everyone accepts the warm bowls of matzoh ball soup. Is it because special Passover flour is used to make Passover matzoh, which is ground into Passover matzoh meal, combined with a short list of ingredients and cooked in gently boiling water? (The flour is rabbinically supervised in every step of its processing, starting with the wheat’s harvest; the flour and water for matzohs cannot be mixed for longer than 18 minutes, commemorating the haste with which Jews made their flat breads as they fled the Pharoah’s reach.) Or is it because we eat the rounded dumplings just once a year at this, my favorite holiday?”


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