The biggest surprise to this recovering Catholic is how widely available Communion wafers have become—even Amazon sells them. And given that they need consecration to fulfill their religious role, there may be a market in selling to the curious. These buyers’ letdown may be comparable to mine: Like most Catholic kids, I had to practice for my First Communion. Necco wafers were the stand-ins—the real deal is not the same.
Before Communion wafers hit the Internet, access was another big difference between the two symbolic breads. If altar bread was for church use only, matzoh has always been available as a snack or to cook with, particularly to make that matzoh brei I learned: soaking the bread in hot water, squeezing it dry, mixing it with beaten eggs and salt, and frying it either in a pancake or like scrambled eggs. Food authority Raymond Sokolov calls the result “French toast for Passover.”
I may just use the rest of my box of matzoh with good cheese. Or try a seasoning trick Mimi Sheraton offers in her book From My Mother’s Kitchen: Rub one side of each matzoh with a cut clove of garlic or onion, dampen the matzoh slightly, and sprinkle with coarse salt, then re-crisp in a 375°degree oven. Which might be the most unexpected connection between these two symbols: One evokes the Resurrection. The other can be brought back to a new life.
Regina Schrambling is a longtime food writer in New York City best known for her acerbic Web site, Gastropoda.com. She is a former deputy editor of the New York Times Dining section who now writes for outlets ranging from Plate to Endless Vacation. She also blogs at Epicurious. Her last Gourmet Live article covered cooking with lard.