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Every morning my father would sing as he shaved. It’s many years since I lived in the same house as him, but I remember Some Enchanted Evening being his favourite. He was of a generation that didn’t complain about their lives. He’d shave again at 6 if he was going out, maybe sing a different song.  At Pesach he’d make the only things I ever saw him cook; matzo brei and bubbalehs.

Matzo brei is broken matzos, sometimes soaked in water, then drained, added to eggs, then fried. I occasionally make it and never soak the matzos. I always need something piquant like ketchup on the plate to counter the blandness. Bubbalehs are fluffy pancakes made with matzo meal, (ground matzos), as flour is forbidden, though as matzos are made of flour it’s all a bit of a mystery to me. Anyway, the Israelites in Egypt would never have had wheat flour as we know it. They would have used spelt or another ancient grain. I’m not, you may have gathered, any sort of religious authority. Don’t know too much about food habits of ancient Egypt, either.

My father spent his early childhood in a poor family in a poor town in Poland. He must have learned how to make matzo brei and bubbalehs by watching his mother. His parents, his sister, were murdered by the Nazis during the war. He’d make those pancakes, shake the pan, get excited by the job. He was a man of enthusiasm.

Towards the end of his life he stopped working to look after my mother, who’d become unwell. He took to heating meals in the microwave then, under her instruction, started doing simple cooking. He watched cookery segments on morning tv. I’ve never been more surprised than I was the day he told me it was better not to keep tomatoes in the fridge. He was excited to be learning something new. It was also his way of finding common ground with me. Food is never only food.

My mother has survived him by four years, so far. I’ve written more about my father here.

Allow me to wish you a happy and peaceful Pesach, Passover, Easter, bank holiday weekend, whatever it is you’re about to have.


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