The Great Passover Matzo Dilemma
It's Passover...Jew eat bread yet? - Don't Get Me Started!
I've quoted it before because I think it's one of the more hysterical scenes in a movie, when Woody Allen is walking down the street with Tony Roberts in Annie Hall explaining how he knows that people he encountered were anti-Semitic. He's talking about one guy who he is sure said, "Jew eat?" instead of "Did you eat?" Now on the whole, Jews talk more about food than any other group in the world. We're the only people who can be eating a meal and planning every other meal we're going to eat for the next 72 hours. It's not uncommon to hear my family at a breakfast (with their mouth half full) saying, "Ooh, tomorrow night's dinner is going to be really good." And when it comes to Jewish holidays (for the mildly religious at heart) our main concerned is always about our next meal. At Yom Kippur during the fast, all anyone can talk about is, "I'm so hungry I'm actually weak. Look, my hand is shaking. If I pass out, you'll just step over me and go on with the service so I shouldn't be a bother to anyone. But come back and let me know when it's time to eat, yes? Oy, are we going to eat at the break fast! How many more hours until sundown? What are we eating besides the brisket?" So it's not uncommon for Jews not to suffer in silence as they eat their matzo for ten days during Passover. We also prefer to suffer collectively and be our brother's keeper all at the same time. So it's not uncommon to hear Jews talking amongst themselves saying, "It's Passover...Jew eat bread yet?" - Don't Get Me Started!
This actually happened to me yesterday on a business call. And once we Jews start talking (and kvelling) over food, forget it. It all starts innocent enough but always turns to the bowels in the end (end, get it?) "Don't you love fried matzo?" How do you make your fried matzo?" "Boy are we going to eat some bread when this is all over." "How much did you pay for your matzo?" "Does matzo bind you up too? I feel like I'm going to push out my liver one of these Passovers."
As much as I try to not feel as if the world is against me as a short, gay, Jewish man with a six foot black man who was an altar boy for over eighteen years now as my partner in life, sometimes I just have to call it as I see it. In the grocery store there are all these tables, extending the checkout lines filled with a virtual build your own Easter basket display. If I didn't know better, I would swear it was a craft fair for Jesus (well, it is kind of, isn't it?). But to find the Passover stuff you have to go all the way in the back of the store where you'll find one end cap with gefilte fish, some boxes of matzo meal, three cans of macaroons, Dr. Brown's black cherry soda and the industrial sized five boxes of matzo econo-pack. The matzo is where they get us. The five pound warehouse size is $3.99 (as the big sale item for Passover) but if just want one box it's $3.99, the same price if you can believe? Now what Jew I ask you is going to spend the same amount for one box when they can get five? Trust me, I tried to go against everything that is me and my people and just buy the one box. After all (I reasoned with myself) I'm the only one in my house that eats it, what am I going to do with all that matzo if I buy the five box size, where will I store it and if I do eat it all will I ever be able to go "number 2" again in this lifetime?
And so the battle began (cue Ravel's Bolero as background music) I would pick up the one box and suddenly there appeared Harry the Hasidic (who sells discounted silver toe socks, "What they're just as good as the gold toe but cheaper" in the garment district in New York) on one shoulder and my mother on the other.
Harry: What are you crazy with the one box? Boytshik, you'll listen to me because I've been around, you'll excuse me, a few more years than you and I know what is what. Buy the five boxes and so you'll eat it and enjoy it, is that so bad?
My Mother: Your father loves matzo, what you couldn't get the five boxes and bring one over for your father to enjoy? At your brother's seder he told us we have to "Jew Up" this year. They joined a synagogue and the little one is in Torah school. So we didn't know every tune for every song in the Haggadah, we read the story, we hid the matzo and we were together that's what was important. Well, we were almost together I'm sure I still don't understand why you couldn't drive to be with all of us. Next year not in the Holy Land but all together in San Diego, do you hear me? What were we talking about? Oy, of course you'll buy the five pack that is on sale, what did I raise a idiot?
And so I bought the five boxes of matzo packaged together (which was like carrying a patio lounge chair sideways through the market). As I went down aisles taking down canned goods and bags of plastic grass for Easter baskets (I think this is all part of the conspiracy. They make us have to carry these big boxes so that everyone in the store knows..."Jew with matzo walking on aisle five!!!") I finally reached the checkout. The shikse cashier just gave me the once over as I plopped the enormous box down on her belt. She treated it like a bomb, she really didn't want to touch it but eventually she tried to scan it. Then she couldn't find the bar code. And why couldn't she find the bar code? Because it isn't on the bottom where it should be, it's on one of the ends. So she stands the huge box up vertically and then puts it aside. Next she does my favorite thing ever. She takes a plastic bag and puts it on the enormo-box of matzo like a condom. There's no way it's going to reach to the bottom of the now vertical box or that I'll be able to use the handles on the bag to carry it so I have no idea why she would bother even putting the bag on. Suddenly I start to laugh to myself. What does she think it's like porn and I don't want anyone to see me carrying the big box of matzo? Did she just want to give the box a plastic yarmulke because that's what "my people" do? Or could she just not take looking at it herself because she was afraid Jesus might get mad at her?
Well, I'm happy to report that I did make it home (with the big box of matzo sticking out of the sunroof in my Mini Cooper) and I had some delicious fried matzo. But now the huge box of the five boxes of matzo is on my counter and I'm going to have to go feed some Jewish homeless (is there such a thing) or something because I can't look at all this matzo, it's all ready making me crazy. I've thought of how it figures into my lunch and dinner plans and tomorrow morning it's fried matzo again because it's Passover...Jew eat bread yet? - Don't Get Me Started!
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