April 19th, 2011
12:42 PM ET

Festival proves magic is in the matzo ball memories

By Jerry Simonson, CNN Senior Photojournalist

Lauderhill, Florida (CNN) - As Jewish families around the world sit down at the Seder dinner table to commemorate the Passover holiday, conversations will no doubt turn to an age-old debate. No, not the question of tax cuts versus tax increase. It's a discussion that has as many diverse opinions as any political dispute: "Who makes the best matzo balls?"

In the quest to answer this question the South Florida Golden Matzo Bowl was held. Among the judges was a Catholic priest responsible for choosing the winner in the "Father Knows Best Award."

Local chefs took up the challenge and brought their version of matzo balls to the Forest Trace community center in Lauderhill, Florida. Among the other titles to be awarded were "Most Like Mama," "Chef's Choice," and the ultimate prize, a chance to be crowned "Best All-Around Matzo Ball."

Residents lined up to taste the food and let their voices be heard, casting votes for the "People's Choice" prize. A matzo-ball-juggling chef on stilts worked the room with his rubber chicken; it was "game on."

The group of judges included food experts, TV personalities, a rabbi and the priest. As the matzo balls were being scored for taste and texture, the judges referenced their own memories in grading the dishes.

"I was looking for the matzo balls experience to remind me of all the times I sat around the Seder table and experience the holiday with family, with grandparents, with friends," Rabbi Jonathan Berkun said.

Television personality Art Ginsberg, better known as "Mr. Food" said one's idea of the perfect matzo ball can be traced back to childhood. "It's like searching for Mama, the way Mama made it was the right way," says Ginsberg, "Whether it was soft, whether it was fluffy, no matter what, it's the memories that you gauge everything on."

When the trophies were handed out, three different establishments split the top prizes, reinforcing the idea that the best matzo ball is the one you like.

The age-old debate of what is the best matzo ball might not have a definitive winner. Yet the magic doesn't lie in the seasoning, size or soup. The magic is in the memories that have been made around tables as generations of families and friends gather to celebrate their traditions, and love for one another.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Florida • Food • Holidays • Judaism • United States

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. sites

    Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I in finding It truly helpful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something again and help others such as you aided me.

    July 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  2. Yakov Hadash

    Hey just FYI that's me singing the Kosher Chicken song. Thanks to CNN for posting this video.

    April 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  3. Mr. Food

    I had such a good time judging the 2nd Annual Matzah Bowl Event! Glad you could be a part of all the matzo ball eating 🙂 I wanted to share my recipe for matzo balls, plus 15 traditional passover favorites:


    April 20, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  4. »(¯`v´¯)»BIG»(¯`v´¯)»MATZO»(¯`v´¯)»BALLS»(¯`v´¯)»

    For All!

    April 20, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  5. Dangerfield

    I like matzo ball soup, but I always wondered if you could eat any other parts of the matzo.

    April 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Youngman

      The mamaries are tasty.

      April 19, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  6. killallthewhiteman

    Never had it before, but it looks good.

    April 19, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  7. Brandon Bare

    My Egyptian neighbor's first-born son makes good matzo ball soup. Irony.

    April 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  8. Matt

    Tomorrow night I will be having a few helpings of Matzo Ball Soup with my wife's Jewish Family. Can't wait!

    April 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm |

    I liked it !!!!!!

    April 19, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  10. Pete

    Too bad John Belushi wasn't around to be a judge.

    April 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  11. johnnyringo

    I love matzo balls...there one of the top non-meat dumplings!

    April 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • johnnyringo


      April 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Wordy Wordpicker


      No... they're (not there)...

      April 19, 2011 at 5:05 pm |


    April 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  13. Mildred

    My fiance makes a good matzo ball soup... with a vegetarian Indian tomato/beet broth that dyes the matzo balls purple! He's in the middle of the light/fluffy and dense debate.

    April 19, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.