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Columns

Matzo and Manischewitz

Screw it, let’s just go to Chipotle

By Jacob R. Drucker

What makes this breakfast different from all other breakfasts?

I am sitting here in the Mather dining hall, writing this piece over a hearty morning meal of matzo and cream cheese with a side of water, wondering, above all else, how to properly spell matzo in English.

For the uninitiated, this week is Passover, an eight day holiday in which your favorite local lawyers and doctors, the Jews, celebrate their exodus from Egypt by depriving themselves of everything remotely edible. When we fled Egypt, you see, we had no time to bake bread, and thus were forced to eat dough that had not risen, which conveniently turned into perfect rectangles that came fifteen to a box (although it should be noted that the box itself tastes substantially better than its contents, and is effectively made of the same ingredients).

So here I sit, with so many thoughts swirling through my mind. Who first paired the matzo with the cream cheese, and what kind of prize did he win? What rabbi first decided that peanut butter was forbidden for the duration of the holiday, and how quickly was he fired? Why is there so little to eat outside of gefilte fish and horseradish? And where do the gefilte fish come from? And how did my great-grandparents in Poland find the coconuts to make their macaroons?

I know what you’re thinking: The dining halls serve gourmet matzo for breakfast! And bagels! Let me simply say, dear reader, no they do not. Just because the box says that the matzo is gourmet does not actually mean that anyone, including Chef Ramsay himself, could make anything remotely gourmet out of uncooked flour and water, regardless of the number of expletives thrown in for garnish. There aren’t even preservatives or carcinogens for added flavors! Also, the only part of the bagel I can eat this holiday is the hole in the middle.

And I’m left wondering why on earth there exists a religion which requires mandatory cracker consumption. I’m wondering why, unlike some of our peers, we don’t even bother to pretend that the cracker represents the body of a deity. I guess it seems just a little too sacrilegious to schmear Moses with Philadelphia cream cheese. I hope the man wasn’t lactose intolerant.

The first two nights of the holiday have elaborate meals, the central part of which traditionally involves your little cousins battling over who can throw their hard-boiled egg yolks into the other’s grape juice. After the yolk showdown, as well as a long, winding recitation of whatever motley collection of biblical verses and rabbinical wisdom Maxwell House assembled some years ago, the meal ensues.

This is no ordinary meal. Imagine an Iron Chef competition in which the secret ingredients are horseradish, parsley, and thousands of years of oppression distilled into a vinegar derivative called Manischewitz. Next remove all dairy and grain products from the kitchen. Now add your aforementioned cousins, who have nothing better to do than redistribute their yolk in the name of equality, which they learned from your uncle who kept interrupting the meal to talk about how awful Obama has been for him, and how he’s thinking of leaving the country and moving to Miami for tax purposes.

But I digress. The rest of the holiday is slightly less exciting, albeit equally difficult for the gastronomically challenged. I would be remiss to leave out how amazing Hillel has been, serving both lunch and dinner this holiday to help those of us struggling to get our fill of stuffed peppers and kugel. But the struggle hardly ends with dinner. Somewhere along the line, it was determined that beer is off limits, thanks to its barley or wheat content. Most vodka is a no go, too, leaving us with little more than plum brandy and Manischewitz. What a selection. Whoop de whoop. If the food carts outside the Science Center really wanted to make a killing this week, they’d be selling kosher-for-Passover rum and cokes. I’d tap that. With a straw. And maybe one of those little umbrellas. Once I turn 21, that is.

For those who couldn’t tell, I really miss bread right now. I’m sitting here overcome with jealousy as I watch everyone else enjoy their French toast and English muffins and Danish danishes. But there’s no turning back. If we built the pyramids we can surely survive for a week on crackers and cheese.

Perhaps with some horseradish on top.

Happy Passover.

Jacob R. Drucker ‘15, a Crimson editorial writer, is an applied mathematics concentrator in Mather House. His column appears on alternate Fridays.

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