"Call your Bubbi for the recipe and write everything down," I said to my daughter.  It was just before Passover, and were were going to make kneydlekh, matzo balls.In the old days my family made them together, batches and batches, some large, soft and fluffy, some small, round and chewy.  The family was split in tastes.

Before my time, my mother's mother had inserted a crisp bit of chicken skin, a grivn, in the center of every kneydl.  This flavorsome crackling with the dumpling she called neshome, the soul.

My daughter calling my mother for the recipe?  My mother who approximated her mother's recipe?  Her motherless mother who invented her mother's recipe?  The ancient and timeless matzo ball?  Yes, that's my religion."

Ancient and Timeless Matzo Balls

  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • Dash of ginger
  • 1 tsp veggie or peanut oil
  • Salt and pepper

"Crack open eggs (my daughter wrote).  Separate whites from yolks.  Beat whites till fluffy.  Beat up yolks, add oil and matzo meal.  Add salt and pepper.  Put in ginger.  Fold in egg whites.  Add a little cold water - quarter of a cup.  Mix it all around.  Has to be a batter you can work with.  Can't be cement.  Can't be mud.

Taste it.  Must be good raw!  Add more seasonings if necessary.

If good batter, cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Put in freezer 10 to 20 minutes.

Boil either soup or salted water.  Have a small bowl ready with cold water and ice cubes.  Dip hands in cold water before each kneydl.  Form kneydlekh and throw in boiling water.  If you want small, hard kneydlekh, add more matzo meal and seasonings.  For small ones, form marble-size; for big ones - size of golf ball.  (They grow).

Cook for 15 minutes.  Cut one big one in half and see if ready.  (Look and taste).  Throw in colander.  Let Mom and Dad do this.  If want to keep warm, cover."

—"The Soul in the Dumpling," from Miriam's Kitchen, by Elizabeth Ehrlich, Penguin Books, New York, 1997.

Lid Potatoes

I accidentally found a kindred spirit. See, I was drafting a post about nursery supper (never mind, it will make sense later) and surfing doing a bit of online research about this and that...and I stumbled on a blog called Munchkin Mail. Normally I do not click on blogs with names like "Munchkin Mail" but in the Google search results this blog had the magic word combos, "nursery supper," "meal from childhood," "Children's books," and "baked potatoes."

Hello, what's this?!

I clicked and found an amazing post indeed titled "Nursery Supper" about the author coming home from a trip, needing to make something "comfortingly simple." She decided on a dish known in her house as "Milly Molly Mandy potatoes" because they are based on a meal from a children's book of the same name. They are nothing more than twice-baked potatoes, but the provenance of the potatoes coming from the story just made my heart sing. It embodied everything I strive for in an eats-reads connection, and it was exactly the kind of Nursery Supper example I was looking for. Not only did I make the potatoes tonight, but put the book on hold at the library because I simply have to read it now.

Lid potatoes, Milly-Molly-Mandy Potatoes...whatever you call them, they are super easy and super fun. You bake your potatoes according to your method (I scrubbed mine, poked holes, threw them in a 400 oven for 45 minutes). Then you cut a small slice off one short end so that it will stand up on the plate. Cut a larger slice off the other end, this is the lid. Hold the potato in an oven-mitted hand, then, with a spoon, carefully scoop out the insides into a bowl. Careful not to carve in too deep or you'll poke out the other side (which is not a tragedy). Mash up the potatoes with butter, salt, pepper and cheese of your liking—grated parmesan, shredded cheddar or jack—and then spoon it back into the shells. Put lid on top. Serve with a spoon.

Kids go crazy for this. I mean, it's mashed potatoes, duh, but the added novelty of scooping it out of the potato standing on its end? Too much. If your ego needs stroking, I suggest making these because you will rock.

I also made steamed green beans and sauteed Italian sausage with peppers, onions, zucchini and grape tomatoes.