During Passover I am reminded of one of my friends from grade school. Her name was Alisa and she was one of the first friends I ever had that celebrated Passover. We met in the sixth grade. I was intrigued by someone who was not allowed to eat a particular food for an entire week. We made a pact very early on. I always saved one of my chocolate Easter Bunnies for her and she would stash it away in her desk until Passover was over. Looking back on this now I am astonished that an eleven-year-old would have such self control. In return, she would bring me matzah.
At lunch time I would take out my tuna fish sandwich and carefully scrape the tuna off of the not so interesting white bread and on to the matzah cracker. Delicious. It never occurred to me to ask my mother to purchase matzah. I had the distinct feeling that it was not such an easy commodity to come by at the local grocery store. In fact, I remember Alisa telling me that they were sent, by the case, from an aunt who lived in New York City. A family care package.
These days it is easy to find matzah. Or at least I thought so until my friend Otto informed me that there is a matzah shortage this year. I know that the local Safeway has a large display. I don’t really know if they stock it all year because it is only during this week that I have a craving for it. As the years have gone on I have learned how to cook with matzah. My friend NA has spent time showing me how to scramble eggs with slightly moistened matzah. And I have been inspired to try my hand at dipping it in dark chocolate. A sacrilege? I hope not. In fact, one of my favorite confectioners, Charles Chocolates in Emeryville, California, sells bittersweet chocolate-covered matzah. One pound in a clear box topped with a lovely blue ribbons sells for $26 plus tax and shipping. Or you could order one pound in the deluxe gift box for $34 plus tax and shipping. Check out their Web site. Who knows, they may have a post-Passover sale!
It is easy, however, to chocolate coat your own. This is what I do: melt semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave following package instructions. Line a sheet pan with foil or wax paper. Place a cooling rack on top. Once the chocolate has melted, use a pastry brush to brush the tops of each piece of matzah. Place on the rack, chocolate side up. Allow to harden. Repeat with un-coated side. Allow to harden. Store in an airtight container.
I always start off a chocolate tasting by asking the guests what their earliest memory of chocolate is. The majority answer a chocolate Easter bunny. Here is my theory based solely on my family’s Easter Sunday tradition. We would dye hard-boiled eggs on Saturday night and leave them for the Easter Bunny to hide. On Easter Sunday morning, after waking up the adults, we could start to hunt for our eggs and our Easter basket. A word about the basket: my older sister did a wonderful job of putting together our baskets with lots of special candy from See’s. The baskets were always arranged the same way. A large Rocky Road egg was nestled in the green cellophane grass, circled with six smaller fudge eggs. A sprinkling of spring colored jellybeans finished the basket. As we got older, there was usually an envelope with money in it. And, of course, the mandatory foil covered solid chocolate bunny. The rule was no eating until the hunt for all of the hard-boiled eggs was completed.
And then there we were—children in our pajamas and bathrobes at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning with a big basket of chocolate on our laps. Was this heaven or what? And we were allowed one piece. And what kid wouldn’t try for the biggest piece of all—an entire rabbit. The adults caught on to this trick real fast but not before we had gnawed the ears off of Mr. Bunny. So begins many a child’s life long love for chocolate. Delicious and sometimes forbidden chocolate.
And why no “first time” memory of other holiday’s chocolate treats? While there might be chocolate Santas around on Christmas morning the focus is on the long wished for presents that Santa has brought, not on consuming chocolate. And a Valentine’s Day celebration is a day time affair with chocolate hearts traded with class mates. It is only on Easter morning that the consumption of chocolate is encouraged at such an early hour. So I hail Easter as the most chocolate holiday of all. Even if it did fall a little too early for my tastes this year.