Preparing for holidays: the matzo ball open

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Good thing I exercised my hands for months before attempting to make 75 matzo balls. Despite the cramping of my fingers, I push on. My performance is dazzling, but it’s my brisket preparation that puts me in competition for the gold medal. The sheer weight of the meat is daunting. Every time I lift it to season both sides, give it the old garlic, paprika rubdown and lower it into the oven, my muscles scream with the effort.

But do I stop? Never. I persevere, flexing my biceps as I slice the brisket, hour after hour, fighting exhaustion and dehydration. The slicing of the brisket is only slightly more challenging than the chopping of the haroseth (walnuts, apples, wine and cinnamon), which can easily result in rotator cuff injury or worse.

But it’s the baking that messes with your mind. You whip up a dozen eggs, fold the whites in separately, pour the airy mixture into a tube pan and scream at everyone not to move or say a word for 90 minutes while it’s baking. Then just try and get the thing out of the pan without reducing it to a soggy pancake or a heap of crumbs. More than one woman has landed in an outpatient unit as a result of failed sponge cakes, which I fondly call the cakes of affliction.

Once the food is prepared, we move on to the search-and-seize event (something like an egg hunt). During this part of Passover preparation, we search the house, top to bottom, trying to find the tablecloths, Seder plates and matzo covers we stored away last year.

The final event, of course, is Academy Award-worthy acting, specifically trying to look relaxed and serene (ambulatory and conscious) at the Seder table.

By the time one of the grandchildren asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” I try not to think that I am more tired than I have ever been on any other night. With a final effort, memories of the week’s outsized efforts begin to vanish in the sweetness of the moment.

Copyright ©2014 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at

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