Dear Poetry Friday friends,
I have a Passover-themed post for you this week, with a poem, a recipe, and book recommendation, and a giveaway! But first, thanks to Matt Forrest Esenwine for hosting Poetry Friday this week. Head over to Matt’s blog, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme for this week’s poetic links.
But first, happy 6th birthday to the fifth grade poets of Emerson Elementary. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary was published six years ago this week, right in the middle of National Poetry Month.
Look! Ms. Hill’s class has their party hats, balloons, and cake. To celebrate, I’m giving away six copies of the paperback on Twitter. Here’s the link to RT.
One of the poems in The Last Fifth Grade is about matzo, the unleavened bread we eat during the ten-day Passover festival.
Rachel (pictured top row, middle, as imagined by illustrator Abigail Halpin) writes about her discomfort at having to sit at the allergy-free table at school, how her friends pepper her with questions, and how sharing food (matzo candy) helps her classmates connect with her Jewish traditions.
As Jennifer Greene, the editor of my book A Place at the Table so wisely said, food is often a person’s first experience of a new culture.
By Rachel Chieko Stein
Passover is my favorite holiday.
I love matzo for lunch, spread thick
with cream cheese and strawberry jam.
I love how the matzo crunches
around the soft cream cheese
and gooey jelly.
I promised my dad I would eat
at the allergy- free table during Passover
even though people eat bread there
because the janitors
keep that table really clean.
But when I sit at the allergy- free table,
my friends think I am mad at them.
“Why aren’t you sitting with us?”
“Why do Jewish people eat weird food?”
“You have to eat that for a whole week?”
“Don’t you miss bread?”
I told my dad I wanted a thermos of soup
instead of a delicious matzo, cream cheese,
and jam sandwich for lunch.
He took out a recipe
covered with chocolate streaks.
“Aunt Jennie’s Matzo Candy.”
We buttered matzos, baked them
until they were hot, spread them
with chocolate and butterscotch chips.
Melting, crispy, buttery, sweet. Mmmm.
Dad said, “I think this is the right medicine.
See the bottom of Aunt Jennie’s recipe . . .?
To stop teasing, administer
one dose to classmates.”
I didn’t see anything written on the recipe.
But when I shared Aunt Jennie’s candy at lunch,
no one said matzo was weird.
This poem refers to an actual, beloved recipe handed down to me by my friend Jennie Steinhauser. You may see other versions of it online, where it’s often called “Matzo Crack.” (Here’s one to try.)
“Aunt” Jennie’s Matzo Candy (Serves 1)
1 c. sugar
1 c. butter
6 oz. chocolate chips
6 oz. peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt butter, add sugar, and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes. Stir. Pour over matzos on foil-covered cookie sheets. Bake 7 minutes (or maybe less). Take out and pour on peanut butter chips. Let set 30 seconds and spread. Repeat with chocolate chips. Stick in the fridge for 30 minutes, then break into pieces. Eat a whole bunch. Like on the couch. Eat some more.
You can see why we all love Jennie!
This year, we’re trying something new at our family Seder (the Passover meal, where we–short version–retell the story of Exodus, share prayers, sing, and eat special foods like matzo). Instead of our usual Haggadah, we are using the Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel.
It’s Thursday as I write this post. I’ll be making Jennie’s Matzo Candy this afternoon, along with charoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, wine, and honey that represents the mortar Jewish slaves used to build Pharaoh’s pyramids. But I digress — I hope to post Matzo Candy photos soon.