Stone Soup, Made With Matzos

When Isaac Finkelhauser, owner of the Gourmet Home-Baked Hand-Stamped Matzoh Company, decided to retire to Florida, there were 50 boxes of unsold matzos on his shelves. This matzo, the only kind like it in the world, was packaged in blue waxed boxes with a picture on each side of a crisp, light-brown matzo stamped in the middle with a Star of David.

I'll give the 50 boxes to the poor people in the project, he decided. They will get a chance to taste these beautiful matzos before they disappear forever. He put a sign in the lobby of the project telling about the matzo bonanza.

The Katzes were the one Jewish family living in the project. The others had never heard of matzos, so Mrs. Katz was the only one to ask for them.

"I'll take them all," she said.

Isaac Finkelhauser piled the boxes in a rusty wheelbarrow from his storeroom, and Mrs. Katz wheeled them home. She was glad to get the matzos because Mr. Katz had lost his job and the family was out of money for food.

That evening, Mrs. Katz gave each of the four children and Mr. Katz a crispy brown matzo. "Such beautiful matzos," she said. "Each one stamped with a Star of David. We're fortunate to get them."

They all admired the matzos.

"Eat slowly," Mrs. Katz said. "It's all we have."

Everyone was still hungry when they'd finished, so Mrs. Katz gave each another matzo.

Breakfast was a matzo, and the children and Mr. Katz got matzos in their lunch boxes.

That evening, Mrs. Katz crumbled six matzos, sprinkled them with water, and made matzo pancakes in a frying pan. They had to be eaten with a spoon because the pancakes wouldn't hold together.

"It tastes awful," Petey Katz, the youngest, said.

"Put salt and pepper on it," Mrs. Katz suggested. "And maybe some ketchup."

After a week, Mr. Katz was still unemployed, and the Katz family was sick of matzos for every meal.

"Take care of the children after school today," Mrs. Katz told the oldest, Miriam, a teenager. "I'm going to look for a job."

"I'm staying in bed all day," Miriam growled. "I can't face another matzo."

When the younger children came home from school, Miriam was still in bed.

"If you could eat anything you wanted," Petey said, climbing on Miriam's bed, "what would it be?"

"No use wanting," Miriam said morosely. "There's only matzos."

"But what if?" Petey insisted.

"A fine stew with lots of brown gravy," Miriam said. "Now go play and leave me alone. I'm starving."

"I'll bring you a nice matzo," Petey offered.

"Don't you dare," Miriam warned.

Petey opened the cupboard. On the shelves were stacks of lovely blue boxes - so many, it seemed they would be eating matzos forever.

I'll make a stew for Miriam, Petey decided. He crumbled three boxes of matzos into the large pot their mother used for soups and stew.

Then, Petey rang Mrs. Noonan's bell, next door. "Will you come to supper at our house tonight?" he asked.

"Oh, we'd love to," she said. Mr. Katz must have found a job, she thought, and they are celebrating.

"Everyone is giving a little food," Petey said.

Mrs. Noonan brought a huge carrot from her kitchen, and a bunch of wilted parsley. "Will this do?"

"Fine," Petey said and put it into the bag he'd brought. "Bring bowls and forks for your family."

Then he rang Mrs. Murphy's bell. She accepted his invitation and gave half a head of cabbage, a cup of dry noodles, and a yam. Mrs. O'Leary gave a soup-bone, only slightly used, and a turnip. Mrs. Rizzo had four meatballs and an onion.

Mrs. Lang gave a box half full of chocolates. For dessert, she said, but Petey knew different.

AFTER he'd invited eight families, Petey's bag was full. Back home, he poured the food from his bag over the crumbled matzos, added water to fill the pot, and turned on the stove. He put the chocolates aside.

"What smells?" Miriam came into the kitchen. The other children followed.

"Get dressed," Petey told them. "We're having company for supper. Stew is cooking."

When Mrs. Katz came home from looking for work, she found the apartment full of neighbors. They held steaming bowls from which they spooned a thick stew with brown gravy. It smelled of onions and vegetables and meatballs ... and chocolate.

"What's going on?" Mrs. Katz cried.

Petey brought her a bowl and her neighbors urged her to taste it.

"Matzo stew," Miriam said. "With brown chocolate gravy. Petey made it."

"And everyone gave something," Petey said. "I used three boxes of matzos. Do you like it?"

"It's delicious!" Mrs. Katz said.

This is a fictionalized account of a true story.

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