It’s a few weeks since my beloved father passed and we are in the middle of Passover and eating a lot of matzos. As I contemplate my breakfast this morning, I think about the significance of these ritual foods in our lives. How important they are. How meaningful. How comforting.
The predictability and certainty of the red box on the counter top in the kitchen – you can get matzos the rest of the year but they’re in a blue box and don’t have a special label saying ‘Kosher for Passover’.
At home we always use to agree that the Passover matzah tasted better and speculated that must be because it’s so fresh, that they probably use special flour, that a mysterious prayer was said to make it taste so good (I think I’m imagining that bit). For me there’s something really special about the precise combination of matzah, unsalted butter (plenty of it) and the sharp, sweet taste of Tiptree’s blackcurrant jam. No other make or flavour of jam really cuts the mustard (and that’s another thing you are forbidden to eat by the way during Passover – unless you’re a sephardi Jew but that’s a whole other story).
I even like the way the matzah breaks and shatters as you attempt to butter it, leaving a big jammy, buttery, crumbly mess on the plate.
For a whole week I eat this combination every morning and it’s so, so delicious but I’d absolutely never contemplate eating it at any other time of the year. Could you imagine tucking in to Christmas pudding and brandy butter for dessert this evening?
The simple pleasure of following the rituals, of knowing what to do and how at a precise moment or time of year.
When the world feels uncertain and you don’t really know how to be or feel, it can be so comforting and reassuring to do what you’ve always done in the right order and the right way.
To remember the red box on the counter and how you looked forward to chremslach, the little, sweet meal pancakes my mother would make for dessert. And how you sat around the Passover table stifling giggles with your brothers and sister and cousins as your father half read, half sang the story of the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt in an ancient language you can read but apart from the odd word, don’t understand.
And knowing that it’s not so much the precise meaning of the words that count but the fact you always read them together at this time of year and they always sound the same and bring the same feeling of shared history and sadness, yearning and continuity.
And awe at the mystery, beauty and joy of life.