So, for those of you not quite up on the smaller books of the Tanakh (Old Testament to many of you), there is one that comes into play this time of year. The Book of Esther tells the story of how the Jews, once again, were doomed to be exterminated, this time by a King’s advisor in ancient Persia. Esther, is the hero, saving her people. We celebrate by reciting the Megillah, the WHOLE MEGILLA (for you language buffs who like to know the derivation of slang) and drowning out the villain’s name, Haman, each time it is mentioned with noisemakers called gragers. In Israel this day is also one for dress-up in costumes. It is a wonderful light-hearted festival, following a solemn day of fasting.
The food related to this festival (there ALWAYS is a food) is the hamantaschen, a triangular filled cookie in the shape of Haman’s hat. (Think those tri-cornered hats always shown with pictures of Revolutionary War clothing, and you’ll be close.)
So, while I was preparing and baking the hamantaschen I got to thinking. (Uh oh, there I go again.) Here are some of my random thoughts:
- Just like Christianity incorporated social customs in the scheduling of some holidays (i.e, Christmas for the winter solstice) some people took this Jewish holiday of celebrating how one woman was so very important to developing a International Women’s Day just about the same date. Check it out.
- There are differences in the cookie dough depending on your family’s region of origin. My mom’s recipe is a light cookie dough. I’ve eaten others that are thick and chewy, almost a sweet bread.
- One of the fillings I enjoy is poppyseed. I use a can of the prepared Solo fillings but would like to make it from scratch….as soon as I find a local poppy grower…uh huh.
- A second filling is made typically with stewed prunes and raisins, sweetened with honey and chopped nuts added. This year I used a spicy (flavorful, not hot) plum preserves I made from fruit I gleaned last summer at the historic Hoover Minthorn House in nearby Newberg. As a child President Hoover often stayed with his uncle there and wrote about eating so many plums that he suffered….hmmmm….a level of distress. Anyway, my plum preserves just got an addition of local hazelnuts and it was ready. Just don’t eat too many and you’ll be fine!
- Graham’s favorite is made from apricots, sweetened a bit with honey. A nod to the Mediterranean origin of the holiday, it adds a bright color.
- I remember Sam does not like one of these fillings so much, but since I can’t remember which, I will mail him a box with all…he can share with his friends