I recently came across a new chocolate product that was exactly what we were looking for to fill the void left when we stopped producing our own matzo clusters. While I’m excited about the Matzo Project’s chocolate covered matzo clusters (which look like our clusters, but also include toffee and other tasty ingredients), the memories these clusters have created for me have been unexpected. Why?
The name of these tasty clusters is Chocolate Matzo Ungapatchkies which I’m going to guess is the plural noun for one of my favorite Yiddish words, ungapatchka. This brings back so many memories of my childhood. When I was a teenager and my dad didn’t like what I was wearing, he’d say it was ungapatchket. It means gaudy, garish, too much. I hadn’t heard the word ungapatchket in years until I came across these matzo clusters, and it made me laugh and think of my dad.
My dad grew up in a Yiddish-speaking household in Boro Park, Brooklyn. While English was his first language, his parents spoke Yiddish as their first language, so his vocabulary was liberally sprinkled with Yiddish words. When my mother married him, she also picked up a lot of Yiddish words, so my childhood was filled with Yiddish.
As a small child, my parents used Yiddish to keep me in line. You know how kids sometimes say honest things that are perhaps a bit too honest even if they’re true? Or perhaps a kid asks a question that’s slightly embarrassing to the adults on hand. In my household, my parents had an abbreviation they would use to tell me not to say anything in front of people. “ZG”, which stood for zogn gornist, which meant “say nothing”. It was our own code, something they could say out loud that others in the conversation wouldn’t understand, even their family members who would have no reason to recognize the acronym. I guess you could say I’m blowing our cover. I won’t be able to use “zg” any longer.
My mother’s favorite Yiddish word is machatonister (and she is more than happy to correct you if you use the plural, machatonim, incorrectly). I was feeling a little jealous because my mother had a favorite Yiddish word, and I didn’t. Then I came across the Matzo Project and I realized that I did have a favorite word, and it’s ungapachket.
The memories of my dad and his strong opinions about my wardrobe (which wasn’t anything out of the ordinary) came flooding back when I saw the Matzo Project Ungapatchkies. My dad worked in the garment center selling yarn to woolen mills before I was born, and he had pretty strong opinions about clothing. My husband was bemoaning the bad leisure suits his dad wore in the 1970s, and it reminded me that my dad NEVER wore a leisure suit, despite their popularity at the time. He taught me never to hang sweaters on a hanger (they stretch). He favored solid colors, and classic clothing – less is more. He always shined his shoes, and one year as a gift he gave me a shoe polishing kit.
December 23 would have been my dad’s 92 birthday. It seems appropriate that between his November yahrtzeit and his December birthday I have a chance to fondly remember him. I have to thank the Matzo Project for helping me find my favorite Yiddish word, and for bringing back so many memories of my father.