Monday, March 19, 2007

The Great Debate

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.


orieyenta said...

Ewwww...ketchup on matza brei? There should be a law against that!

But it is awfully cute that Ann wanted to be "just like Papa".

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

That is a great debate, never heard of the debate either lol. I like matzah brei but without cheese and don't think of putting ketchup in there.

Anonymous said...

i thought mine was the only household where there was a debate over sweet vs savory matza brei (we've also got the polish and hungarian mix going on). I go with savory, but salt and peppper. I can't think of a anything i'd put pesachdik ketchup on. ironically, french toast gets the sweet treatment. until i read your post, i never thought of the two foods as beng similar!

Ezzie said...

I *never* understood the ketchup on everything... for us, it's sugar (or MAYBE syrup) on things like French Toast, and for sure sugar on matza brei. Plus, Pesach ketchup is gross! (But Pesach Coke... mmmmm...)

I guess I'll have to start training Elianna now...

SephardiLady said...

Interesting how the clash of culture comes out when making food.

My husband expects matza brie when returning home from the Beit Knesset on Pesach. (Yes, you did read that correctly :).

So, as a wife ready to please, our first Pesach I made matza brie and had it ready for the return trip. My husband couldn't figure out what I had made!

Mine was salty with some pepper. He was expecting sweet with sugar to top it.

I also made the prasa (a Sephardi dish) with a different texture despite getting his mother's receipe. At least he liked what I made. But he doesn't want to see my version of matzah brie again.

Ariella said...

Raggedy Mom, it's an interesting thing to think about whether one's taste for sweet or not is primarily shaped by genetics or environment. My daughters ususally tell me that they like my cooking best, but of course, that is what there are most used to. Actually, though, my husband prefers my cooking to his mother's. I have to admit that I don't ususally incorporate sweet things within a meal except for the occasional apple kugel. The sweet lokshen kugel does not go over as well as the onion soup mix one. But when French toast or matzoh brie is on the menu, it is served with syrup.

MommyD said...

Totally thought I was the only one who had this issue every pesach. I'm de-lurking just to let you know you're not alone. In our house, we have "Daddy's matzo brei" which is broken pieces of matzoh fried with onions and salt which *I* won't touch, and then we have "Mommy's matzo brei" which is sweet and in a frying pan and then you cut pie shaped slices and eat it with jelly or sugar.

My kids are little so they still prefer mine, but they know that Daddy doesn't eat mommy's and visa/versa.

Next question . . . what is your charoses like?

PsychoToddler said...

You are right and he is wrong.

Debate over.

RaggedyMom said...

Orieyenta - I'm working on the legislation :)

SWFM - Cheese? I've never even considered that. Who knew?

Anon - RaggedyDad doesn't even have a Hungarian background. He just likes messing with the sweet-vs-savory order of things. I try to tell him that since he's Russian, he should just be happy that he's not waiting on line for 10 hours for his food and eat what I say he should :)

Ezzie - I actually prefer the Pesach ketchup and look for it year-round. Same for the Coke, though we're kind of old fogies about our drinks and usually have seltzer unless there's company.

I would start offering Elianna small doses of sugar/maybe syrup ASAP. Though if you don't have any corrupting influences like I do, you may not need to bother yet. And although the pediatric dentist across from your bus stop is pretty good, maybe it's best to wait :)

SL - At least you aren't putting cumin in the matzah brei. That would be the last straw for me :) Are you and your husband both from Sephardi backgrounds? Different countries of origin?

Ariella - I don't usually make that much sweet stuff for during the meal because my main eater RaggedyDad doesn't care for cooked apples or cinnamon. Yeesh! I save it for company.

MommyD - Thanks for delurking - you were so quiet, I didn't even know you were there :)

Since we are still lucky enough to go to my parents, my mother is in charge of the charoset. I'm very much the type to like what I'm accustomed to. She's always made it sweet, with grated apples, walnuts, and wine. And probably sugar!

PT - Well, if you insist! That's how I see it too - there really ought to be no debate here.

Anonymous said...

RaggedyMom - could you please, please put up your standard recipe and your dad's recipe for matzoh brei? And any other recipes you'd like to share? My family makes it just scrambled with eggs with salt and pepper for seasoning. Your version sounds way better! And I'm always looking for new kosher recipes!