Monday, April 13, 2009

The butter holiday

Most people think of Passover as the time of year when we eat matzah. And I love matzah: matzah brei, matzah ball soup, charoset on matzah. But, really, it's the butter holiday.

Growing up, it was the one time of year I was allowed to have butter, and my mother served Land O' Lakes sweet unsalted whipped butter in a tub. The rest of the year, we had margarine. But the corn oil in margarine isn't kosher for an Ashkenazic Jew. So we had that special treat of sweet butter.

On matzah. I became expert at perfectly evenly glazing a matzah with this butter. Amazingly thinly, too, because if I was caught eating too much of the butter I'd get in trouble. And then: the salt. My second favorite food, after butter. I'd coat the thin matzah with the thin layer of butter, then with a thin layer of salt. It was art. And I ate as much of it as I could.

In a perfect Hallmark moment, my oldest friend K. and I had a long phone conversation this weekend. While we spoke, she was cooking for her family in Philadelphia, and I was painting a wall of my condo here in Emeryville. (Boy, have we come a long way since second grade in Cleveland!) We took turns putting each other on speakerphone. She told me about her own memory of my mother providing sweet unsalted whipped butter.

(I will be making K.'s recipe for matzah kugel tomorrow. At her recommendation, I won't use the full 1/4 pound of butter it calls for.)

Several years ago I finally broke from sentiment and bought sweet salted whipped butter. I don't really know why my mother bought us the unsalted version. I got tired of the art involved, and now I just slather it on.

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