Philly bakery raises the status of Passover staple

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    On the second day of Passover, observant Jews may be getting sick of unleavened matzo, which substitutes for bread during the weeklong commemoration.

    Matzo is, practically by definition, really, really boring food. Most matzo comes from just a few Jewish distributors. It looks a little like corrugated cardboard.

    When President Obama went to Israel last week, he complimented a piece. And Jon Stewart, the most Jewish man on late-night television, couldn’t let it slide.

    Obama: That’s good matzo right there. [audience laughs]

    Jon Stewart: I’m going to stop you right there Mr. President. Good matzo? that’s what’s known in the business as a “goy tell.”

    Because, unless that matzo was slathered in Fluffernutter or jammed inside a Chipwich, it tastes like the box it came in.

    So, enough build up. Given all this, something really strange happens each year at a Philadelphia bakery. People line up, on some days out the door, for rectangular sheets of matzo.

    “It’s absolutely delicious,” enthuses Susan Gordon, delivering words rarely uttered in reference to matzo.

    She lives nearby the Metropolitan Bakery in Rittenhouse Square and has come for matzo during Passover for 10 years, as long as they’ve been making it.

    “Actually my husband woke up this morning and used Wendy’s whole wheat bread to make his French toast and I said ‘What are you doing? It’s Passover. You ran the Seder last night.’ He’s like: ‘Oh my God, I completely forgot.'”

    He threw the bread out and had matzo.

    Wendy Smith Born, who runs Metropolitan with her partner, says the Fishtown bakery adds an extra shift for a solid week before the holiday.

    “We have sesame matzo, sundried tomato, olive and plain,” ticks off Born. The matzo is not strictly kosher for Passover, in large part because it’s made alongside all the regular loaves on the shelves. But, Born says, most customers are willing to overlook that.

    There have been fights over the last sheets of a favorite flavor. As she rings up a purchase, Born acknowledges it’s all a little improbable.

    “That’s why we have people keep coming back because it’s turning something that was dreaded into something that now is coveted,” she said.

    At least, until Tuesday.

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