Matzo Madeleine

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She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called "petites madeleines," which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal . . .

And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom , my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the meantime, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks' windows, that their image had dissociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the shapes of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness. . .

And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine.

--Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

I break off a chunk of the hard, but crumbly whipped butter from the cardboard tub, spread it on a square of egg matzo, and as the flat bread breaks under the pressure of the knife, I am no longer in New York, but in my old house in Berkeley.

I am 11 years old again. As I finish off a piece of matzo with whipped butter, maybe another half of a piece, I run over to the front window to see if the school bus is coming. It's rounding the corner now, so I grab my backpack, say goodbye to my mother, and run outside to catch the bus. The door swings open, I climb up the steps, and off we head to Malcolm X Elementary School . . .

Like Proust's madeleine, this practice of spreading egg matzo with whipped butter triggers a memory of every Passover before. It is an eternal food ritual, perhaps not as profound as Proust's little cake, but nevertheless there, re-enacted year after year.

But why whipped butter? It does taste good, but I never buy it at any other time. I have only my own memory for reference. Only for Passover, and only for egg matzo. Where does this strange practice come from? Do others share in it as well?

I searched online and found one whipped butter and matzo compatriot here:

Real whipped butter. There's only one time of year you'll find it in my refrigerator -- Pesach. To me, sitting down Pesach morning with a cup of coffee, a box of matzah, a tub of sweet butter and a few different flavors of jelly is as essential to the holiday as the "Mah Nishtanah."

And another here:

I like matzah and whipped butter as much as the next guy -- but given a choice between my wife's home baked challah and matzah, the matzah wouldn't have much of a chance.

I like matzah and whipped butter as much as the next guy. So, maybe I'm not alone in my affection for whipped butter and matzo. Are there still others out there? And if so, why whipped butter?


 





Comments

because you can't use stick butter because it isn't soft enough! so you're either left with whipped butter or spreadable margarine.

 

Dahl,
That is sort of an obvious reason I completely overlooked! I guess whipped butter is slightly more spreadable than cold stick butter (particularly if removed from the refigerator and left to warm up slightly).

However, I think whipped butter is still pretty firm right out of the refrigerator, which is how I usually end up using it (not being patient enough or having enough time to let it warm up). When it's cold like this, spreading it is almost impossible without breaking the matzo. I'll admit, though, it is an improvement on stick butter in terms of its spreadability.

 

sorry to appear a complete ditz, but what's whipped butter? It's not made it over this side of the pond, I don't think. Unless it's the "spreadable butter" you see in the supermarkets?

 

Rach, it's just butter that has had air whipped into it (as far as I know). It makes butter slightly more spreadable, and it gives it a kind of crumbly texture, if that makes any sense.

If you want a really, really detailed explanation, here's a government document I came across detailing U.S. standards for whipped butter sale and production:

http://www.ams.usda.gov/standards/Whipped.pdf

 

Whipped butter - Breakstones Sweet Unsalted, to be precise - is one of the very few brands of butter available kosher for Passover. I know this because, for at least a few years, I tried to do the whole nine yards of Passoverness. This meant only buying food that was officially sanctioned. Even sugar. In Canada, at least, this whipped butter is the only one I could find with the funny little sticker on it. So I buy it (even now) only at Passover, even though in the logical part of my brain, there is no reason that normal butter would be unkosher for Passover - at least in my world anyway. And although I must admit it does ring a few nostalgia bells for me, I don't personally find that it spreads any better on matzoh than regular butter that has been allowed to soften for a little while.

 

Thanks, Evelyn. I think you are onto something here. Interestingly, upon inspection, the Land-0-Lakes whipped butter you see in the image has neither a kosher for passover label, nor even a regular kosher label. Shonda! It doesn't really matter since I do not eat kosher, but next year we're buying Breakstones!

 

That mystery solved, I now present the other one: why is it that we must spread the matzoh with UNsalted butter - but then sprinkle it with salt? I always do this. The time that I tried to simplify this process by using salted butter, thus eliminating a step, it was all wrong, wrong, wrong!

And by the way, EGG matzoh? Really.

 

Yes, egg matzo. I think that's the only one with any real flavor. It may sound bland, but I just have it with the unsalted whipped butter and no added salt.

 

You can use stick butter if you put the matzo on a flat surface and rub it with the short end of the butter. Yes, I'm a matzo/butter lover too. But only for 8 days a year.

 

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Whipped butter - Breakstones Sweet Unsalted, to be precise - is one of the very few brands of butter available kosher for Passover. I know this because, for at least a few years, I tried to do the whole nine yards of Passoverness. This meant only buying food that was officially sanctioned. Even sugar. In Canada, at least, this whipped butter is the only one I could find with the funny little sticker on it. So I buy it (even now) only at Passover, even though in the logical part of my brain, there is no reason that normal butter would be unkosher for Passover - at least in my world anyway. And although I must admit it does ring a few nostalgia bells for me, I don't personally find that it spreads any better on matzoh than regular butter that has been allowed to soften for a little while.

 

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