And how do you like your matzo balls?

Matzo Ball Soup 002


Food Online

 

TORONTO. June 9/22 – Of all the ideas I came up with this past Sunday one was to visit a restaurant renowned for its matzo balls. I really can’t give you a satisfactory matzo ball explanation. I just thought it would be an enjoyable idea.

By Alan Simons


The restaurant is located north of Toronto’s city limits, where the matzo ball for the Ashkenazim is as important as knowing how to prepare sopa de huevos y limón for the Sephardim.

Upon arrival, I was escorted through a maze of tables and chairs that had experienced another day, and then to a booth that had at one time been described as being cosy and intimate.

Observing the customers, it didn’t take very long for the two well-groomed ladies, sitting in a booth close by, to be drawn to my attention.

Their accents were undeniably Hunglish.

“I’ve always liked my matzo balls like my toothbrush, super soft and fluffy.”

“My mother-in-law’s matzo balls were as hard as a rock.”

And with those earth-shaking remarks a conversation from the two ladies, who obviously were leading matzo ball gastronomic authorities of their generation, got my interest, as it would yours.

 “My Samu, may he rest in peace, loved his balls as hard as a rock,” remarked Judit. I was introduced to Judit’s name by way of the enormous personalized necklace she was wearing. She looked at her friend. “And you, Lili. Soft and fluffy?”

Well, for fear of having to contribute to a conversation involving hard balls and soft and fluffy, I immediately called my server over to my table and quietly asked her if there was another booth available for me. Sadly there wasn’t!

The two ladies, Judit and Lili were beaming at each other, and combined with their combative posture, just six feet away, with Judit scanning me, as Hunglishers are known to do, I was now more than ever certain I had chosen the wrong booth.

Lili was the first to order. “I’ll have a large bowl of chicken soup with one 50-minute matzo ball that floats, with no ginger in it. Ginger’s too pungent for me.” She turned to Judit. “I’m allergic to ginger you know.  It gives me pain in my stomach! And make sure the soup has enough thinly sliced carrots in it.” She again turned to Judit. “For the sweetness.”

Judit nodded and patiently waited for her turn to order.

“Ah yes, my turn!” Judit, who obviously had peripheral vision, gave me a slight glance that I would best describe as wanting my full attention.

“Yes, a large bowl of chicken soup, and I like my matzo ball al dente, not fluffy so that it’s very firm, like pasta, when bitten. And make sure my chicken is organic and the soup is hot!”

A few minutes passed by as the two ladies, in idle chat, waited for their orders.

Now, I am not by character, an individual that one might say gets shocked at what I was about to hear from Lili, but there are grounds for giving advanced notice. This is one of them.

“Judit, I have something to tell you.” What followed wasn’t something Judit was expecting from her friend. A friend she had known since school days in the old country.

“I have come out!”

“From where?” replied Judit.

It was obvious Judit was not familiar with the term.

“From spending too long at home trying to decide if I’m…”

Lili paused as her large bowl of chicken soup with the one 50-minute floating matzo ball, with no ginger in it, had arrived. Judit’s order followed. And at the rear, my order with the traditional carrots, parsnips, celery, shallots, and sprigs of parsley moving freely on top. A huge matzo ball, neither fluffy nor hard, completed my serving.

“I have come out!” repeated Lili, looking down at her matzo ball, with tears trickling down her cheeks that were accompanied by a distinctive sobbing sound. Each emotive teardrop, upon hitting the surface of her chicken soup, spread over her thinly sliced carrots, which quivered on contact.

I have to admit, the moving scene in front of me was on par with the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which received a 92% critics’ score on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer.  

If one personally wanted to have contributed a wish of musical support for Lili, for that is what one does under these trying circumstances, I would have requested Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47. A fitting piece of music that would have brought all the matzo ball customers to tears. For I readily accepted Lili’s natural pain of a heroine, having to express herself, to her friend, in a public place.

Lili raised her head and looked at Judit for support. None came!

“Judit did you hear what I just said to you? I have come out! O-U-T!”

(I put this word in capitals to show you the intense emotion emanating out of Lili’s tearful eyes).

“Yes, I heard you the first time,” Judit quietly remarked, looking into Lili’s eyes.

“Then tell me, Judit, what am I to do?

With difficulty, I held myself back from offering a comment, “Yes, Judit, tell her, tell her, what is she to do?

Judit, put down her large soup spoon, containing a morsel of matzo ball, reached out to Lili’s left hand, and in the spirit of friendship said:

“Lili you know what the old Yiddish proverb says, don’t you: Beser a shande in poneem vee a vaitig in boich. Better shame in one’s face than pain in one’s stomach. Coming out? There is no pretending about it.  Whatever you call it! Your homemade matzo balls are not soft and fluffy? Try using a conditioner.”

 


 

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