Today I’m going to tell you how to make a Jewish dish, matzo brei.
First of all, I want to make it clear that I’m not Jewish, and all the information in this post is from (I hope) reliable sources, not from my own experiences. So, I apologize up front for any misinformation I present here. I’ve made every effort to ensure the post is accurate. Please leave a comment below if you have any corrections or additional information I should know (I’m looking at you, Stan!).
That said, I looked forward to researching this post especially because I knew I’d probably learn some interesting cultural points. Boy, did I!
I first read about matzo brei (rhymes with “eye”) from a Jewish friend’s FB post – he said he was making it for his family for Passover breakfast. I asked for his recipe, a variation of which you see below. I also consulted the internets to find other variations and methods. I listed many of those, too.
Matzo brei is basically broken-up pieces of matzo crackers mixed into beaten eggs with a little seasoning and fried up in a skillet. What surprised me most is that I’ve been making a similar dish that I learned from my very Catholic mother all my life, except instead of matzo crackers, I use saltines! I guess that’s the Gentile/shiksa version!
Anyway, another thing about matzo is that there are several different spellings: matzoh, matza, matzah. This happens when a word is taken from a language that doesn’t use the same alphabet as English. I arbitrarily chose the spelling “matzo” because that’s the way it was spelled on the matzo I bought.
Matzo is used because of the Jewish dietary restrictions of Passover, which dictate that people eat only unleavened bread. Passover lasts seven days (or eight for some), beginning on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan, which ends up being around Easter time in the Christian calendar. This year, Passover is April 10-18.
Passover commemorates the exodus of the Jewish people out of Egypt after generations of slavery there. I found a very good rundown of the Passover sotry and traditions at chabad.org. It’s good reading if you’re into it.
In any case, the Jews left Egypt so quickly that their bread had no time to rise. The dietary restriction in this case, therefore, is to eat only unleavened bread. Hence, matzo is a mixture of flour and water which is baked into thin wafers shortly after mixing.
Matzo is used in many forms to keep kosher (to maintain adherence to the dietary laws), such as finely ground for cakes and cookies or in meal form as breadcrumbs, etc. The matzo meal is used in matzo ball soup, one of my favorite things! I love the ingenuity Jewish cooks have come up with in order to have a large variety of food despite some fairly strict dietary restrictions.
I look forward to trying more Jewish recipes in the future, so please point me in the right direction if you have any. My Jewish friend claimed my Jewish almond cake was spot on, so I’ll have to post that recipe eventually, too.
For now, happy Passover, Easter or whatever other spring celebration you might observe. And here’s how I made my first matzo brei:
Photo for No Apparent Reason: