My son didn’t eat. I don’t mean that he nibbled at food, I mean that when he was small he ate an insanely limited diet. Teachers, grandparents, even his friends had a hard time believing that this small child refused every food universally beloved by other children—ice cream, cookies, pasta, pizza, hot dogs, cake. When I took him to the doctor I’d complain that my child had never eaten a fruit or vegetable, and fret about the impact on his future. “He looks fine to me,” she’d say cheerfully, reminding me that no sane child ever deliberately starved to death.
Other than milk and the occasional Cheerio, there was only one dish that Nick would deign to put into his mouth. I told myself this was because he enjoyed cooking it, but deep down I always thought that Nick loved matzo brei because of his innate good taste.
Matzo brei is kitchen magic at its best: you toss three absolutely ordinary ingredients into a pan and end up with something extraordinary. Matzos are dull crackers with very little personality, but softened until they soak up eggs and scrambled in a bath of butter they become ethereal little clouds of flavor with tantalizingly crisp edges. Little wonder that Nick named it “manna.”
I’m convinced that there are two basic secrets to feeding your children. The first is to avoid turning the table into a battleground. Give your children food they like to eat, and eventually they’ll like to eat more. (Nick is now a 6 foot 3 omnivore with an appetite for almost everything.)
The other secret is to make the kitchen fun. Nick and I spent a lot of time baking bread (is there anything more wonderful than watching dough rise?), and coloring eggs (even when it wasn’t Easter). We baked pies, shucked corn, shelled peas. But his favorite activity, by far, was making manna.
He loved the crunch of the crackers when they broke, and the sizzle of the butter as it hit the pan. But what he loved best was stirring the egg-soaked matzos until they were perfectly soft but still crackled when you took a bite. “Now!” he’d cry, and we’d whisk the crisp little bits onto a plate and take them to the table. Then I would watch, with enormous delight, as my small fussy child began to eat.
Serves 1 with a child
2 matzo crackers
½ stick butter (or as much as you’ll allow yourself to use)
2 pinches salt
Break matzo: Put a strainer over a bowl (so you catch all the little bits) and break the matzos into bite-sized pieces.
Soak matzo and mix in eggs: Run the strainer under the water until all the matzos have become damp. Toss them into bowl with the dry crumbs, break the two eggs in and mix well.
Cook and serve: Melt as much butter as you’ll allow yourself to use in a heavy frying pan and wait for the foam to subside. Add the matzo mixture and stir constantly until you have lots of plump little bits that are soft as pudding inside, but crisply golden on the outside. Salt to taste and rush it to the table.