A Hanukkah Meal

Last night we celebrated Hanukkah over a special meal. My husband came home with a small chicken , 2 parsnips and a bag of potatoes. He threw the chicken in the stock pot along with some onions, celery and carrots and we savored the salty aroma for the next couple of hours. Earlier in the day I had prepared applesauce out of the last of our hand-picked apples from the orchard. I boiled them, ran them through the food mill and added cinnamon, the smell of which still lingered in the kitchen. The combination of chicken, herbs and spices made our mouths water in anticipation of our favorite Hanukkah meal.

While the soup was cooking, my husband grated the potatoes and parsnips, which he would fry in oil and serve as latkes. When the broth was ready, he added matzah balls and served us each a hearty bowl of chicken soup.      It would not feel like Hanukkah without this traditional first course. Before we dug in, we lit the menorah- this time choosing the one my daughter had painted when she was little. Ahh, the memories… 

After the soup was finished, we threw some dreidels and gelt (chocolate candy) on the table for a few rounds while the latkes were frying in the pan. At first we happily sang the dreidel song each time someone spun it, but it quickly became too repetetive and drove my daughter crazy so we focused on competing to win all the gelt (Gimel).

Finally the latkes were ready. Their salty, crisp coating smelled so good we could hardly wait. We served them with a large scoop of sweet applesauce.     MMmmmm…it doesn’t get much better than this. Happy Hanukkah!

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Matzah Ball Soup

My fifteen year old is home sick today. For the most part she stays in her room and rests, but I know she appreciates me coming to check on her from time to time. When I went in a few minutes ago, she asked me to make her some Matzah Ball Soup. In our mixed faith household, matzah ball soup has become a comfort food. Even though my mother never stocked matzah meal in her house, I always make sure to have some on hand in my pantry.   It is not hard to make matzah ball soup, it is just time-consuming. My husband will make fresh chicken stock, but I usually use grocery staples to keep it simpler. I mix the matzah meal in a bowl with eggs and oil,      

chill it while I boil the water, form it into balls

and plop them into the pot, quickly putting the lid over it.

We used to only have matzah ball soup with holiday meals, but Nana has been with the kids often enough when they were sick that she knew to pick up groceries at the local store and cook up some TLC with her more traditional recipe. For my daughter, the request for this soup translates into a subtle plea for attention. She needs me to acknowledge she is not feeling well and deserves some special treatment. I recognize this need but do not mention it. Instead I obligingly fill my role as mom and caregiver, one that does not come up as frequently in her teenage years. It is a tacit agreement that she needs me more than she cares to admit and that she knows I love her, even though she won’t say it.

The parent-child relationship changes so much over the course of a lifetime. We start as completely dependent on our parents and grow to break away from them. As we mature into adults, we reform our view of our parents and gain mutual respect. While we live independent lives, it is still reassuring to have a parent to ask advice of, or to give moral support when you are down. As our own parents age, we know they may need our assistance too. After a lifetime of pouring out love for us, we want to give some of that back to them.

Now I am in the role of sending that loving message to my own child. By taking the trouble to make her this matzah ball soup, I am letting her know how important she is to me and how much I care. I already know there will not be much of an exchange, other than a brief expression of thanks; but a lecture is not necessary to convey my thoughts. The matzah ball soup has become a symbol of comfort and love. It shows us that we are family and will do what it takes to keep each other well. And I know on another day it will come back from her direction. But for now, this says it all…