The Art of Good Soup: Seder? I hardly know her!

Graphic art for "The Art of Good Soup" column is pictured. Graphic courtesy Camilla Samuel

Today, we’re gonna be talking about an uncontested staple. The lifeblood of every Jewish family. The centerpiece of the Seder. The magnum opus of every little grandmother chanting “Dayenu” for the umpteenth time: matzo ball soup, bitch.

This past week, we were apart. But, the soup spanned our geographical barriers. It didn’t matter that one souper was in suburban Connecticut, and the other Jersey (located smack in the center of Satan’s armpit). Also, it should be noted that neither of us lives by the shore. Stop asking. There’s more to New Jersey than Snooki, we swear.

Anyway, allow us to set the scene. No matter what your family looks like, there are some essential characters at every Seder. There’s the unhinged uncle who somehow manages to lead the meal despite insisting that he drink all four glasses of wine. There are the fun cousins, whom you may or may not have seen for a couple years. They’re still 90% of the reason you agreed to come home in the first place.

There’s your aunt who’s perfectly nice but too involved in family drama. And — to top the whole operation off — there’s the grandma who wore the same pink, sparkly cardigan for Passover and Easter brunch that coming Sunday. As she should. There’s only so many family-friendly sweaters one can own.

When dinner finally comes, you’re starving and bored. You may or may not be a little wine drunk (if you’re over 21 … this is only conjecture). You may also have a slight taste of gefilte fish in your mouth — because you try it every year even though it’s gross. It’s literally fish loaf. Fish loaf.

However, the matzo ball soup revives you. We just love those big, fluffy balls. It’s steamy, salty and dressed in your mother’s best china. It comes out piping hot. And you’re so hungry and so bored of hearing about how Moses parted the sea that you don’t even care that, really, you’re just eating soggy, wet bread. You’re just so excited to dig into those balls. To slice into them with a shiny spoon and think about the men you hate.

Tiny carrot slices swirl around the faintly yellow broth. Really, the broth is only there to set you up for the main event. Matzo balls are wonderful but bathed in controversy. Should they be light and fluffy? Or small and compact? This question is vital for the fate of the bowl. Everyone has their own preference for balls though. Or maybe you don’t even like balls. They can be scary sometimes. And an acquired taste. We are not going to tell you what to enjoy. Seek your own pleasure.

We rate our respective bowls 10 spoons. For the 10 plagues. We’ve never carried unleavened bread on our backs, but they do still ache from the weight of being the sexiest, coolest, most-fun characters at our Seders. Thank you and goodnight.


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