Monday, March 8, 2010

Hamantaschen, belatedly

I spent many, many years combing through the bible (for what I have been told are all the wrong reasons) while I was getting a degree in literature. It is difficult to get through a study of western literature without a passing acquaintance with the new testament; it is impossible to get through the same study without an intimate knowledge of at least parts of the old testament. I recommend you begin with Genesis.

For the most part, it was a struggle. People who read the bible because it warms them & cleanses them, well more power to you. Do not ever undertake a comparative study of any kind, though because you will never put the pieces back together. In the end, there were only two books I really enjoyed. Leviticus (all that inventory! I love to count things. & those lists of crazy rules; I still quote 19:27 in defense if hippies everywhere, Oliver Cromwell be damned) & Esther. With Esther, I think it is safe to say we are back to that fairy tale thing again: Once upon a time there was a girl who lived with her guardian in an ancient kingdom...

& Esther brings us to Purim or The Feast of Esther, if you want to be that way about it. & Purim brings us to hamantaschen. I am almost as fond of these cookies as I am of the nut & shortbread cookies my mother only seems to make in December. I think there is something about them being limited to just those times & places that makes me love them more. My recipe has been adapted over the years from Beni's Family Cookbook by Jane Breskin Zalben, & Joan Nathan's The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen & they are both great books & they make excellent baby shower gifts. Also they are usually on sale, such a bargain.

It was pure coincidence, but last year, our regular book club meeting was on Purim & the book that had been randomly chosen was Fugitive Pieces by Ann Michaels. It seemed apropos to make something Purim-esque.

So here we go: hamantaschen is actually a two-parter. There is the dough & there is the filling.  & I rolled up my sleeves & got ready to walk you thru it, but the drop dead truth is there is a better recipe here.

//a complete & total side bar: a friend of mine had decided after much soul searching, that she was converting to Judaism. This came as a small shock to her Unitarian parents & a big shock to her Baptist husband. But she was certain. She explained to me that she was herself going to adopt the laws & live as a Jew but in trying to make the transition (I love people who are sure they will change the people they love) easier for her husband, she was looking for ways to reconcile his current deep-South/deep fried diet with kosher law & did I have any suggestions. My answer was "Jewish without the food! What's next, black without the music?" We do not talk much anymore.

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