Purim: Drinks, Eats, Writings and a New Top 10

Happy Purim, everyone.




For those not very familiar with this holiday—especially my non-Jewish friends and readers—don’t feel too bad. It’s not quite as well known as Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah or Passover, nor should it be, I guess.


The beauty of Purim is that it is a pure celebration with elements of Halloween (people, especially kids, are encouraged to dress up like a good guy or gal or a bad guy and a kinda bad girl, among other customs and costumes) and St. Patrick’s Day (drinking is encouraged). Not bad, right?


The culinary centerpiece of Purim is the hamantashen, which you may have seen and enjoyed at your favorite Greek diner. Why do we eat these triangular shaped pastries that are filled with fruit, seeds and sometimes other goodies? Because, as the (allegorical) Purim story tells us, an evil man named Haman wanted to get rid of all the Jews. Haman wore, according to lore, either a three-cornered hat or he had triangle-shaped ears—maybe both. So it only makes sense to mock him (which we also do during the reading of the Megillah…more on that coming) by eating delicious desserts made from the shape of his ears, or hat if you prefer.


If that doesn’t make sense to you, the more you do it, the more it will. Still, not buying it? Have a drink. Still not making too much sense? Have another. The idea is to have fun, celebrate religious freedom, stand up to tyranny and eat lots of hamantahsen.


Last year, writing for jewocity.com, I really had a good time celebrating Purim. I indulged Purim with a lot of words, making a Top Ten list of my favorite hamantahsen flavors. Because the Megillah is the Scroll of Esther—Queen Esther (her real name was Hadassah, but that’s a whole megillah) is the heroine of the Purim story—I also made a Top 10 list of Most Famous Esthers and coined a new Wordapod in her honor. And then, I wrote a feature about a Congregation Mkor Shalom co-congregant named Ruth Halperin who makes lots and lots of hamentashen of all kinds of flavors. It’s become a wonderful family tradition, and she shares countless bags of these goodies with the world. Very cool.


Not only did I enjoy Purim 2012 as a writer, but it was a joy to experience it live with my wife Ruby, and son Benny, who was then three-and-a-half. Benny helped me interview Ruthie and family and we got to really enjoy the Megillah reading, the annual shpiel (a Purim parody staged by a troupe of Mkor Shalom kids under adult direction and accompaniment) and a carnival of games and boardwalk-type prizes the next day. We even got on Ruthie’s goodies list for the first time.


Right about now, I should mention that Purim 2012 started on the evening of March 12; this year, it starts on the evening of February 23. Of course, both are on the same date on the Hebrew calendar: the 14th of Adar. The Hebrew calendar, based on the lunacy of the moon, doesn’t do leap years—it does leap months, so every so often, a second month of Adar is added to the calendar. And of course, all holidays start at sundown, Why? Have a drink. Still not convinced? I’ll throw in a hamentashen.


Speaking of those hummies, I’m in the mood for a very quick Top 10 List. As much as my friend Ruthie is the master at making great hamantashen flavors, most are candy bar-themed. I’m picturing those huge diner hamantashen and almost tasting what I would put in the middle of them. The practicality of actually baking them to perfection is another matter.



My Top 10 Quickie Hamantashen Flavor Ideas


10.    Carrot Hamantashen

I need one healthy option, and I think this one will almost rock. Let’s move on.


  9.    Fruit Snack Hamantashen / Liver Hamantashen (tie)

The first was Benny’s suggestion, as that’s his favorite post-pre-school snack at the moment. I own up to the liver, as it works for the knish, doesn’t it? Yeah, I’m somewhat old school. Not so much that as…ah, nevermind.


8.      Meatball Hamantashen

A good meatball is never a bad thing, and think it would go well with the dough around it. Like a mini-hoagie (but not too mini) and a desert all in one.


7.    Poppyseed Hamantashen

I still love these—my favorite real hummie flavor since forever. It needs a place on all such lists.


6.      Pastrami Hamantashen

Isn’t pastrami the quintessential Jewish cold cut? Corned beef or brisket, you say? I’ll take pastrami…and let's make it hot. Tongue, you say? Thanks, but I'm good.


5.      Pasta Hamentashen

Okay, I’m working the Ps, the starches and the meats. I don’t have the most diverse palate.


4.      Kung Pao Hamantashen

How could Chinese food not work its way onto a Jewish holiday food list.


3.      Poultry Hamantashen       

Not paltry: Poultry. As in chicken, turkey and duck…but not terduckin.


2.      Salmon (or Lox) Hamentashen

I love salmon—grilled, broiled or baked. (Not a sushi fan, though.) I’m not sure about lox on a hummie, as it’s hard to eat it without the bagel and at least some amount of schmeerage. On second thought, the hamantashen dough may complement it pretty well.


1.      Pizza Hamantashen

The ultimate why not to my way of thinking and taste buds, which of course influenced this list. No other toppings—just mozzarella and tomato sauce. Presumably, nothing would top this simple, yummy hamantashen for me.


Happy Purim!


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Hamantashen photo courtesy of www.jwi.org





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