A humor series on navigating this difficult time
I’m sharing another installment of a humor series from my friend Pam Goldman, centering on a woman named Ramona, who tries to help… in her own way. If you’re new to this series: Here’s the previous installment.
My roots go back to a little-known sect of Judaism — not Ashkenazic, not Sephardic — but Culinaric, as in “Jews interested in eating.” My family was not observant in the traditional sense. My parents did not go to synagogue in our suburban New Jersey town not because they did not want to go, but because they couldn’t afford the membership dues. ($500 annually per family. That’s $5,000 in today’s dollars.)
I wanted to go to temple because I liked getting dressed up. I also liked belonging. Sometimes I tagged along with my friend Adrienne Weinberg’s family but that never felt great.
It was almost better to stay home and smell my mother’s brisket (referenced in a previous essay). It was the best and her noodle kugel was, as they say, to die over. Her matzo balls were light and fluffy, “as good as Tabachnick’s” my aunt would say, comparing them to the Oscar-worthy ones made at our local Jewish deli.
On Passover, I carry on my mother’s tradition, making her brisket, noodle kugel and the crown jewels, her matzo balls for chicken soup. Since we’re still being careful about dining indoors with family members who have not been vaccinated, we decided to bring a seder dinner to share with our dear friends Abby and Bob who, like K. and I, are fully vaccinated.
If by chance any of you know Abby and Bob, please keep this under your hat: I didn’t feel like making the matzo balls. So the day before Passover, K. and I drove to the closest Jewish deli, which here in rural Connecticut is 36 miles away. We also picked up the chicken soup, tzimmes, latkes and the symbolic foods needed for the seder plate, a roasted egg, horseradish, parsley and celery. (Abby was making the charoset from her father’s recipe).
When we got home from the deli I unpacked the two large brown shopping bags filled with food and put everything in the fridge. There were two containers of matzo balls so I figured they gave us an extra by mistake. No, I did not call the deli. Would you drive 72 miles round trip to return 8 matzo balls at 9 miles per matzo ball?
The next day K. and I took everything out of the fridge and re-packed the two brown bags to take to our friends. As K. reached for a container of matzo balls on the table I yelled, “No, put that one back in the fridge! They gave us two. I already packed one.”
If this is getting boring, fair warning…I am going to continue (in detail).
We arrive at Abby and Bob’s and they are thrilled to see us and our two large brown bags (not necessarily in that order). K. starts unpacking, placing everything neatly on their black granite countertop as I chat with Bob.
Abby glides toward the stovetop and says, “I’ll get the chicken soup going so we can drop in the matzo balls. Bob’s been talking matzo balls since this morning and my mouth is watering for them!” K. is now surrounded by a mountain of crumpled tin foil which he has peeled off every container in sight. He turns to me and I notice immediately his color is off.
“Ramona, where are the matzo balls?” he asks in that half smug/half accusatory tone of his.
“They’re in one of the bags,” I say nonchalantly, meanwhile praying like I’m Orthodox.
K. fishes in one bag and comes up empty. He fishes in the other bag. Zilch. Nada.
“No they’re not,” he says, the color further draining from his face until he is the color of, I swear, a matzo ball.
“Well we (meaning he) must have left them in the back of the car. I’ll be right back!”
I open the hatchback on the Volvo. Empty. I suddenly have dry mouth and an urge to call 911.
I re-enter the kitchen where K., Abby and Bob, unblinking, face me, frozen in place like a jury awaiting my testimony.
“I don’t understand. They were at home. In the kitchen. On the table. Maybe I left them on one of the kitchen stools,” I report.
K. says “You told me not to pack the matzo balls on the table. You said to put them back in the fridge and I listened to you! I knew I should have packed them.”
“Right! You should have!” I say. “But you have no matzo balls!”
I have no further defense. I rest my case. Where is Perry Mason when you need him?
Luckily Abby had a box of Manischewitz Matzo Meal in her pantry and even though she was wearing a lovely silk blouse, she was unflappable and dove in like Ina Garten to make 8 matzo balls from scratch from a box and they were, if not quite to die for, almost to die for.
K. and I drove home (sated but silent). I entered our kitchen, the scene of the crime. The table was empty and no matzo balls were to be found on the kitchen stools.
I opened the fridge. There was one container of matzo balls on the shelf, the one K. had put back before we left for Abby and Bob’s house.
At the seder Bob had asked the 4 Questions but now there was a 5th.
Where was the other container of matzo balls?!
*If I could I would type the answer upside down and in Hebrew from right to left.
Answer: There was never more than ONE container of matzo balls!
I, Ramona, am not perfect. I am human. I make mistakes. For this one I will repent next September on Yom Kippur.
Happy Passover and Happy Easter everyone.
p.s. K. and I remain married☺