Miriam Coates

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County Fair Season!

See those blue ribbons? My challah (and my husband’s bagels) won those at the county fair last year. Both recipes always turn out reliably scrumptious, which should be enough for any baker, but there is something undeniably, down-home country-satisfying about serving your family and friends “blue-ribbon” baked goods.

Folks looking for Jewish food and culture might not head for the county fair; as Jewish pig farmers, pole benders and log-rolling lumberjacks are rarities in most parts, yet the lure of competition, fancy ribbons and yearlong bragging rights might make you wish to consider participating. That’s right, I suggest you get your apron on and whip, bake, pickle or jar up your Jewish delicacies and head to your county fair. Trust me, your homemade kosher dills will taste even better adorned with a Best of Show ribbon. All you need is a copy of your local fair’s open-class entry form to start planning your submissions.

Yid Dish: Homemade Matzah

matzoh_2010

“This is the bread of affliction”, my father would drone every Passover as he opened the familiar blue square box. “Matzah is tasteless and dry, not meant to be enjoyed. Eating it should remind you of the sufferings of our people.”  As he went on and on and on with his yearly lecture on the harshness of slavery and unleavened bread I sat there slathering on salted butter, devouring sheet after sheet of crispy goodness. Although bland and stomach binding, this so-called ‘bread of affliction’ was a welcome change to the squishy, faintly chemical smelling Wonder loaves my mother bought the rest of the year. Despite the family mandate that matzah eating required a certain degree of complaining to make it religiously significant, my appreciation for the magical combination of flour, water, and fire was born.

Where I grew up in the Midwest during the 1970’s there were only two kinds of matzah available. Manishewitz and Streit’s. Both perfectly square and almost identical in taste, matzah was matzah; or so I thought. It was not until decades later at a community Seder that I discovered that matzah could be round, organic or made from non-white flour.