Just like the drug stores put out school supplies in July, supermarkets sell hamantashen (the triangular-shaped Purim cookies) right after they clear out the Valentine’s chocolate. That’s why we thought Purim happened a month ago and we ate our yearly quota of hamantashen then.
Turns out, Purim is coming next week. This will give Ellen an excuse to bake, and Joyce an excuse to buy, some hamentashen all over again. Oops.
Purim is a joyous holiday that celebrates the rescue of the Jewish people in ancient Persia. Thank you, Queen Esther, for intervening with King Ahasuerus when his evil adviser, Haman, hatched a plot to kill the Jews. Her cousin Mordechai helped save the tribe, too.
The Purim story is read in synagogue from a megillah, the Scroll of Esther. Kids dress in costumes, make noise with groggers when Haman’s name is read, and everyone eats hamantashen (literally “Haman’s hats”).
In synagogue when the megillah is read, it’s a tradition to drink so much that you can’t distinguish between Haman (the bad guy) and Mordechai (the good guy). That’s why you’ll see a cluster of old guys doing shots in the back of the shul.
Does every religion have a day when you’re supposed to drink too much? And why are they clustered together in March. St. Patrick’s Day honors the patron saint of Ireland with the wearing of the green, parades, and an excuse to drink beer. Mardi Gras (March 8 this year) is an excuse to party, drink and overindulge before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
But we would never give up our hamantashen for Lent. And this leads us to a question almost as important as last week’s great sweet or savory kugel debate: What is your favorite hamantashen filling? Do you stick with tradition and go with prune, cherry, apricot or mun (poppy seed)? We only mention mun for David Scolnic, the last living human who actually prefers that gritty, sweet poppy seed paste.
Or, do you go modern? Ellen’s kids love chocolate chips as the filling. The LA Times started a blog discussion of the merits of hamantashen filled with Nutella, a hazelnut-chocolate spread. Epicurious is pushing a gourmet version with date orange filling.
Just like the great matzah ball sinker vs. floater debate, some people prefer their hamantashen hard and cookie-ish, while others like them soft and doughy. Strangely enough, Joyce and Ellen are on opposite sides of the fence on this one.
Size matters. Some connoisseurs prefer their hamantashen bite-sized, so they can eat six. Others like a big one, so they can balance it on top of a cup of coffee and carry it to the other room.
So pass us another hamantashen. Even though the Jewish holidays are all late this year, luckily we still have a month before we have to sweep away the crumbs for Passover.