Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Matzah Ball

Via e-mail, a correspondent asked us to provide sources relating to the “not-so-humble matzah ball”. We suggested Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York (New York, Knopf, 1996) (TX724 .R53 1996). On page 85 she gives the following background information:

The Yiddish word knaidl is derived from the German knödel, meaning “dumpling”. Since the early middle ages, dumplings of all kinds have been popular in German, Czech, and Austrian cooking, and came into the Jewish diet. All over Eastern Europe, they epitomize the robust peasant and poor man's food. The basis of many - both savory and sweet, in soups served with meat and gravy — is egg combined with bread crumbs. The Jewish version with matzah, was born as a Passover specialty, but it is so liked that it appears throughout the year. There are very many versions, with chicken fat or oil, and including beef marrow, ground almonds, grated onion, chopped parsley, and powdered ginger.

We also suggested checking a book of Jewish social history, such as Jenna Weissman Joselit’s The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture 1880-1950 (New York: Hill & Wang, 1994) (E184.J5 J67 1994).

Another library user asked us to direct him to material on matzah, specifically matzah in pictures. We suggested he check Larry Rivers' History of Matzah: The Story of the Jews by Norman Kleeblatt (New York: Jewish Museum, 1984) (N6537.R57 K54 1984 Oversize), which is an artist’s exhibition on the history of the Jews with matzah as a recurring symbol.

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