On April 19, 1995, my mom went into labor while baking matzo farfel chocolate chip cookies. A few hours later, at 12:06 a.m., the break of Passover’s sixth day, I was born. When my parents were finally able to take me home from the hospital, the cookies were there, waiting for me: My mom, nervous my birth would cause her cookies to burn, made sure my aunt would know when to come over to take them out of the oven.
Sometimes, my birthday and Passover overlap. But instead of celebrating this double holiday, I’ve come to rue it.
When I was younger, these birthdays were marked by the absence of cake, pizza parties, and piñatas filled with corn syrup-rich sweets. Kosher-for-Passover desserts taste like garbage, so the only birthday treat I ever looked forward to was my mom’s cookies.
As I grew older, my resentment for the holiday commemorating my people’s freedom from slavery shamefully grew, too. My thoughts of Passover smacked more of prohibition than liberation. When I turned 16, I was surreptitiously given my first taste of hard liquor—a sip of the ever-abominable yet Passover-permitted potato vodka. A few years later, when my college friends surprised me with a tub of my all-time favorite banana pudding for my 19th birthday, which also fell on Passover, I had to decline and instead make do with a piece of chocolate-covered birthday matzo that had been crumbled by my friends’ goyish attempts to force candles into it.
This year, lucky for me, my 21st birthday falls two days before Passover starts. I’ll be able to celebrate with a real cake. My first legal sip of alcohol won’t have to be from a handle of potato vodka. And if I’m gifted banana pudding, I’m allowed to accept.
But here’s the best part of all: Once my birthday is celebrated and done, I still get to come home for Passover, to reunite with my family and be reminded of what makes this holiday so great. And when I walk through the front door on the eve of the first Seder, I know my mom’s matzo farfel chocolate chip cookies will be there, waiting and ready just like they have been for every Passover since I was born.
Here’s my mother’s recipe for matzo farfel chocolate chip recipe:
2 cups matzo farfel
2 cups matz0 meal
1 cup sugar
¾ cup oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chocolate chips, (I often double it)
½ cup chopped nuts (can omit for those allergic)
3 tablespoon orange juice
— Mix everything together w/spatula or wooden spoon
— Drop dollops onto greased cookie sheet
— Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes, checking to see if they need to brown a bit more