The Matzah brawl: Jewish moms judge The Sims' latest culinary addition

Matzah ball soup.
(Image credit: Hipokrat via Getty)

The Sims has added some long-requested culinary items to its world: Matzah / matzo ball soup and challah bread. Recent years have seen the game strive to improve its representation of diverse cuisines, with Arab, Asian and Latin American foods added, and Matzah ball soup is a traditional Jewish dish that is basically chicken soup dotted with delicious dumplings. The soup can be served anytime but is especially associated with the holiday of Passover, and the campaign to add it was mostly led by community member Hufflepom.

Now this is a bit unfair to the Sims development team, who I'm sure worked very hard on getting their matzah ball soup just right, but we decided it would be fun to get a bunch of Jewish mothers to chime in on what they thought of the game's attempt. To be absolutely clear, this is intended as a bit of fun. Matzah ball soup is such a widespread and popular dish, with every family having their own way spin, that there is no 'right' way to make or serve it. Though I think most would agree that serving it with spoons might be a start.  

"What may be wrong with this picture?" writes Linda Ward, mother of PC Gamer's own Stevie Ward, and a woman who is such an authority on matzah ball soup she won a cook-off against another mum on LBC radio. Linda put up a picture of the Sims' attempt on Facebook and tagged in some of her friends to get their thoughts. Stevie immediately jumped in too: "If the soup has been made in a pressure cooker (correctly) how are the carrots so immaculately placed? Also I see no peas or noodles which are a must have for a Friday night soup. Are the balls a bit too big? Like how big are Matzah supposed to be?"

"You Brits have some odd ideas," laughs Carol. "Peas, Stevie?!? LOL. Who is supposed to get the big bowl? And if that's the serving bowl, why is it full, if everyone already has been served? AND who serves Matzo ball soup at the table? Everyone knows that you ladle it out in the kitchen, then shuffle to the dining table never averting your gaze from the contents of the bowl, being careful not to spill."

Does anyone else really want some soup right now. I want some soup.

"The bread is sliced and the loaves haven't been touched yet?!" writes Rachel. "Also four challahs is a LOT of challah! Perfect for those of us who can eat a challah in one sitting!"

The abundance of challah meets with general approval, and Ward adds "There can never be too much challah!!"

A bit of a theme is not so much the food itself as the lack of appropriate tableware. "No spoons!" chimes in Sarah. "If it's Shabbat where are the candles?" wonders Linda Ward. "I was assuming two challot under a cloth meant Friday night…"

"Tablecloth and silverware should be added," says Marsha.

"The soup bowls are way too small guys," laughs Jacqui, "daaaa…. so obvious."

To give the Sims a fair shake here, I should point out that things like cutlery appear when the Sims sit down to eat, which kinda-possibly explains their absence.

Then Jeanette gets involved, and does not like what she sees one bit. "The person in the upper left-hand corner must be soooo frustrated that there's no silverware or soup spoons, because it appears she or he is about to use his/her hand to gouge the Kenaidlach out of the soup bowl. Somehow, the red dress women's placement of the knife above her abdomen is creeping me out!" she writes.

Jeanette is just getting started.

"One can only speculate about this illustration because we don't have all the facts," says Jeanette. "For example, maybe the tablecloth that was to be used was stained with grease from the nearby cooking Brisket, so that's why there's no tablecloth… perhaps the fellow in the gray suit with hidden hands is a magician, and he's about to pull a live rabbit out from under the table? Perhaps the protein of the evening will be a Hasenpfeffer [rabbit] stew?"

It's great that the Sims is striving to accurately reflect more diverse foodstuffs, but the flipside of that is you're going to get the real experts weighing in. On the matzah ball soup… I would say the overall verdict was 'not too bad'. Folk had issues with the relative size of the dumplings and bowls, but loved the amount of challah, and the rest was incidental, like the table setting.

Finally Peter Lemer, whose name makes me doubt he is a Jewish mother, joins the Facebook conversation to question whether the meal should be named "How to put a diabetic in hospital?"

Stevie’s Mum sums up: "The recipe for chicken soup is one known only to the cook. To be frank it is so divisive that one NEVER divulges the composition of their offering except to their own progeny. Mine has a secret ingredient divulged to me by my father and handed down to my daughters! I’ve never been able to replicate my mother’s version. Am delighted that matzah balls, chicken soup and challah have made it into the games world. L'chaim!!"

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."