Light Versus Weighty

Yellow_Wacker construction_2012-08-03

2014-04-15 – There is a debate within Judaism about the proper way to make matzo balls (dumplings). The erroneous view is that matzo balls should be fluffy. The correct view is that they should be dense and weighty.

Cooks may promote the fluffy view because it is generally more difficult to make dense matzo balls. The standard recipe that appears on the box of matzo meal (regardless of brand, it seems) yields fluffy matzo balls.

A variety of manipulations may be required to increase the density of the product. The proportion of egg to matzo meal may be adjusted. Fats with higher melting points may be substituted. The mixture can be cooled and allowed to stand overnight before the balls are formed. And so on. Often, one step alone is insufficient to create lovely dense matzo balls. Usually, more than one of these steps is required.

Unfortunately, the balance is unstable. You need to achieve the exact combination to enjoy perfectly dense matzo balls. If you go too far, the excessive density can cause all matter in the vicinity to collapse into a black hole.

The debate between light and fluffy (on the one hand) and dense and weighty (on the other) is so ancient that we see it reflected in one of the major principles of Talmudic hermeneutics. The principle is called “kal v’chomer” (וחומר קל), which means light-and-weighty. In logic, this principle is known as the “a fortiori argument.” This is a form of analysis that says that logic that applies in and easy case may be applied to a hard case.

In other words, if you think fluffy matzo balls are delicious, you will certainly find that dense matzo balls are even more delicious.


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