[Image courtesy of www.someecards.com]
Welcome to the final article in my Purim Prep series. This is my favorite of the four articles, because it ends with a project that unites two of this blog’s passions: baking sweets and designing patchwork.
Among other qualities, Purim is the Jewish equivalent of Mardi Gras. So why do Passover and Hannukah get more play when Purim is the playfulest? (Yes, playfulest is a made-up word. Pretend it is Yiddish or Hebrew.)
At first I assumed that Passover and Hannukah get more buzz because Passover corresponds to Easter, and because Jewish parents in Christian-majority countries suffer from Christmas angst (count me in). So Jewish adults inflate the minor festival of Hannukah because latkes and candlelight are min hashamayim (heavenly). And we want to gently distract our kids from craving Christmas trees, stockings, glitter-encrusted Advent calendars, and Santa’s delivery service. Now that we’ve made Hannukah the coziest, most fun that it can be, you can buy blue and white Hannukah swag at any CVS pharmacy (that I’ve ever been to).
But back to Purim. Maybe Purim gets passed over because of mishloach manot–the mitzvah of making plates of sweets to deliver to people whom you think would appreciate them. I baked and made my deliveries early this year, in preparation for this Purim series, and now I feel a combination of self-satisfaction and fatigue. From this fatigue, I infer that most not-hugely-observant Jewish adults in the busy United States appreciate Purim costume festivals for their kids, but want to avoid mishloach manoting.
If you want to observe mishloach manot, but don’t have much kitchen time, here’s a list of ideas:
1) Buy pre-made pie dough and fillings. If folding pastry dough into triangles would wear down your patience, just use the dough and fillings for easier types of cookies and brownies that you can cut into triangles (before baking or even a few minutes after baking).
2) You could buy hamantaschen from synagogue fundraisers in your area.
You can use cookie tins and other containers from your cupboards, to be a virtuous beryeh.
This year I have more cookie tins than usual because in January, I sent out a request on a neighborhood emailing list to ask if anyone wanted to find a good home for their unused Christmas tins. I realize it would be a little weird to give mishloach manot in a red and green, Santa-themed cookie tin, but luckily the tins I got back were pretty secular, and I can always save the Christmasy ones for my Christian friends in December.
3) You can also mail-order misloach manot care packages from Gili’s Goodies. Their online site lists many different kinds–for students, for Rabbis and teachers, and for healthful eaters.
Here are dessert-free, time-efficient ways to observe mishloach manot:
Bring food to food pantries.
Take someone on a walk to see these harbingers of Spring:
Make someone laugh.
A memoir that recently made me laugh out loud was Jen Lancaster’s Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist’s Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie Is Not the Answer. This isn’t your typical weight-loss memoir. She’s self-confident, but wants to lose weight after her doctor expresses concern. Come to think of it, a funny weight-loss memoir may be just what you’re in the mood for whether or not you over-noshed on hamantaschen.
And while I’m on the subject of funny women writing funny memoir, Amy Meltzer wrote the funniest Purim essay that I’ve come across: “Mishloach Manot or They’re Really Just Not That Into Us.” Meltzer has also written this Hannukah book:
Why don’t you buy it right now even though it’s about Hannukah and not Purim, because if you get it now you will have one less Hannukah present to buy in December. Even if you are Christian, buy it for your kids and tell them Santa is diversifying.
DISCLOSURE: I don’t know Amy Meltzer (yet–I am going to send her a link to this). So I’m not shilling for her out of some secret agenda, I just think that any she-mensch who names her blog Homeshuling is someone I want to blogcast about.
In addition to books, you could give the gift of Purim music:
1) Lox & Vodka’s klezmer (they define klezmer as Jewish soul music).
2) Anything by Debbie Friedman, especially Miracles & Wonders.
3) The Voice of the Turtle quartet’s Judeo-Spanish (Sephardic) music, especially “The Sword of the Dove.”
4) And then do a search on iTunes for any music with the word “lebedik,” which means ‘full of beans’ in Yiddish.
If you’re wondering why I’m so gift-focused in March, it’s not only because of mishloach manot, but because one of my life mentors (you know who you are, SLC!) taught me long ago that gifts are even more appreciated in any month other than December.
If you’re celebrating this holiday, I wish you freylickhen Purim! But I don’t know what Freylickhen mean exactly. All I know is it is a Yiddish holiday greeting that sounds bawdier than the Hebrew “Chag Sameach” though I’m a chag sameach fan too. That “Freylickhen” word makes me think of a bucket of chicken from KFC. After all the baking I just did, I need a break from the sugar, but I’ll opt for free-range chicken over one of KFC’s factory-farmed birds.
QUILTERS’ FINALE: By fiddling around with cookie shapes on a plate, you can turn dessert assortments into edible patchwork. I made a mandala-like mariner’s compass on a seder plate, then used a “crazy quilt” rectangle to hide edible references to Flying Geese and Disappearing Nine Patch patterns.
The design possibilities are endless and add new meaning to the phrase, “What a sweet quilt!”
You can also use the edible quilt concept to organize appetizers at a cocktail buffet, and if you’re hosting a cocktail buffet this month, consider putting out some kreplach, a dumpling that is traditionally served at Purim feasts.
Hey, If I don’t stop myself now this last Purim Prep post will be gantse Megillah, but I’ll leave you with two kreplach dumpling recipes:
1) Kreplach (click here) from Spice and Spirit, The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook, published by Lubavitch Women’s Cookbook Publications: