On April 15th of this year, Passover ended and Jewish people nationwide tossed their remaining matzah to the side and sank their teeth into the doughiest, yeastiest, breadiest bread they could find. Actually, I’m not positive that this is true. It’s an educated guess based on the fact that, on April 15th, grocery stores started handing out boxes of the unleavened cracker for free, and since grocery stores aren’t normally in the habit of giving away food (as this would be a poor business model) I can only assume that after a week of the stuff, our Jewish brethren weren’t begging for an encore.
Phil and I took four boxes. We are big fans of free, especially of the food variety. But, upon the first bite, we understood why this was no-charge fodder.
It isn’t bad, necessarily. In fact, it doesn’t taste like much of anything. If I had to identify the notes of flavor in matzah like a wine connoisseur would at a cabernet tasting, I’d say, “I detect hints of toasted cardboard with subtle suggestions of other tasteless provisions that you eat strictly for nourishment, like say… flour and water.” Which makes sense when you read the ingredients on the label. “Flour and water only.” Only. How often do chefs underscore how little there is in their cuisine?
I’m sure the makers of Aviv Passover Matzos include the word “only” to confirm for those observing Passover that their meal is as bland as it should be. But for a gentile like me, the “only” is not just a little hilarious, but also completely unnecessary. I could have told you that it was flour and water only when a bite of the stuff made my mouth so dry that I expected dust to escape through my lips in a puff cloud.
Needless to say, Phil and I haven’t been sneaking late night snacks of the sacred delicacy. This chow isn’t designed to be a treat. I get that now. It’s designed to make the consumer consciously aware of the resoundingly mediocre experience that chewing it entails. And, since that is the intent, matzah, you are a wild success. But, since I am not a Child of Israel, since my ancestors did not suffer at the hands of Egyptians until finally being liberated by their gracious God and the mostly obedient Moses, there is little reason for me to commemorate the tenth plague, in which God killed all of the Egyptian first-borns in His ultimate warning to the civilization, but passed over the houses of his chosen people. I certainly respect the Festival of Unleavened Bread, but I’m mostly Italian and prefer my bread as leavened as possible; it’s easier to wipe up residual tomato sauce that way. The other half of my heritage is Irish, and they had their own set of problems. I’d be happy to honor their famine by consuming all varieties of potatoes for eight days. No offense to matzah, but potatoes are just a superior carbohydrate, unless of course there is some way to mash or fry matzah that I’m not aware of.
Four months later, Phil and I are down from four boxes to three and a half boxes, and we’ve been mindful of its presence. It isn’t tucked away in the back of the cabinet. It enjoys prime real estate on top of the refrigerator, next to cereal that we eat on a daily basis. We’ve been consciously struggling to consume the matzah. I even looked up recipes, and got really excited when the first result was an article entitled, “100 Recipes for Matzah.” But it turned out that the author was being a bit generous with the word “recipe.” The article really should have been called, “100 Things to Schmear on Matzah.” I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. After 5,000 years of annual matzah leftovers, I expected a more innovative use for it than “as a cracker.”
At this rate, we’ll never get through our supply by the next post-Passover giveaway. And, again, we just can’t resist free. So unless I’m willing to double my supply, and this really isn’t an option since I’ve flat out run out of storage space, I better accelerate the expenditure. To speed things up, I’ve constructed a list of alternate uses for matzah:
- Karate chopping sheet for a child’s belt test
- A customized graduation cap topper
- Framed as abstract religious art
- Building material for the fourth pig
- Ninja training: line up a row of matzah sheets for ninja apprentices to run across. If the matzah shatters, they are not yet ready
- Break into tiny pieces and toss at just-married Jewish couples in lieu of rice
- Hand fan
- Take on a hike and leave behind as a crumb trail. You don’t have to worry about the birds eating it. They won’t. Leaves and twigs have more zest
- Regrind it back into flour
- If you are a secret agent, you can leave it outside your hotel door. When you hear the matzah crack, you’ll know the villains are about to Uzi their way into your presidential suite, so you should hide inside the tuxedo hanging in your closet.
- Rosh Hashanah party confetti
- Hang as a baby mobile (and this would use multiple sheets! I’m going to be a hit at the next family baby shower!)
Or, I suppose, we could just eat it. Despite my complaints about the “100 Recipe” piece, the woman had a point: matzah was made for slathering—well, not literally—and is also tasty when soaked in something yummy, like soups or chili. It’s a modest fare, but the nice thing about that quality is it doesn’t distract from the taste of whatever you decide to spread on top of it. It serves as a silent vehicle for flavor, and makes me look a whole lot classier than when I just spoon Nutella directly into my pie hole.
(In the google image search for matzah, I saw that people make matzah covered in chocolate, so I think my our problem is solved!)