The topic of this debate is something that still surprises me. You see, before I married RaggedyDad, it didn't occur to me that there was any other way to eat French toast besides sweet. That occasional Sunday morning treat when the challah quantity was too plentiful, draining on a paper-toweled plate, makes me think of nothing else but raspberry jam or maple syrup to go with it.
RaggedyDad, however, sees French toast and thinks - dare I type this - ketchup! Ugh! Ketchup! On French toast! I shudder nauseously just thinking about this. But so be it. Forget about adding cinnamon or some vanilla extract to the egg coating for him. Sweet things are for dessert and not for the meal, he tells me. Stop being so uptight, I say!
Yesterday morning, while RaggedyDad was at shul, I made some French toast, and lo and behold, Ann asked for ketchup to go with hers! "Like Papa," she smiled, innocently. "No problem," I said. But inside, a small part of me felt defeated.
You see, this phenomenon is not exclusive to French toast. In a couple of weeks, at my parents' Pesach table, we will likely sit to a lunch meal of matzah brei. Matzah brei is one of those foods that's so entrenched in my family experience that to have RaggedyDad violate it with anything other than sugar and/or raspberry jelly is devastating. But I know it will be ketchup he asks for at the table. (At least it's that Pesach ketchup that always tastes so sweet!)
My father grew up non-religious in Israel, a child of Holocaust survivors, both ob"m - a Hungarian mother and a Polish father. Which meant that my grandmother's raison d'etre was cooking the best food on earth, but also that she had adapted her cooking to accomodate my grandfather's Polish need to add a little sugar to any and every dish. It can't hurt, right?
When my father first spent Pesach with my mother's family, Boro Park Jews whose oldest daughter (my mom) had rebelled, it was, needless to say, a significant clash of cultures. It helped a lot that a distant relative on my mother's side knew my paternal grandfather and his family from Jaworzna in Poland. It also helped that my father knew how to make the best matzah brei (only on the last day for them) that they'd ever had. Layered and baked in a frying pan like a large pie, and then cut into triangular slices like pizza. And topped with sugar or jam.
Over 36 years later, my father is still making our matzah brei, until 120. Of course, there are the inevitable arguments from my mother about the tremendous mess he's making. And the oil splatters, crumbs, and tendency of us all to eat a little too much of it. And in the midst of it all, I'll be the mom hoping my daughter chooses the sugar instead of her Papa's ketchup to go with it. For old time's sake.