It all began with Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, who became a vegan when she married King Ahasuerus and moved into the palace. She favored fruits, beans and grains in her diet, and legend has it that poppy seed pastries were her favorite.
Purim is a festival renown for celebration, excessive drinking and wild, outlandish costumes; or, as Chasids in Brooklyn call it, Tuesday. It’s the story of the Jews escaping genocide in Persia, marking it as the last time the region has ever made Jews uneasy. For the uninformed, I have some facts and tips below.
The traditional shape of the quintessential Purim dessert, the hamantaschen, is a three-cornered filled pastry. Some say it even looks like George Washington's hat, but I'm certain he wasn't around in those early days. But, what about the shape? What does it represent? Is it the shape of Haman's pocket, his hat or his ear? I think it all depends on the story your grandmother told you.
How do you feel about what's going on here in Israel? How do you think you're supposed to feel?
A friend told me about a scene he witnessed recently at a delicatessen. There was a woman who apparently was not Jewish standing in line at the bakery counter. When they called her number she pointed to the prune and poppy seed hamantaschen and asked for a dozen.
"No, you want these," said the elderly Jewish woman who was serving her, pointing to the apricot hamantaschen instead.
"No, I want those," the woman reiterated pointing again to the prune and poppy seed variety.
The luncheon menu reflected the confusion this week at the Washington policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group better known as AIPAC. The main course was hummus, falafel and baba ganoush, a Mediterranean medley that seemed to symbolize Israel's integration into a New Middle East. Dessert, however, was hamantaschen -- the Purim pastry that recalls Israel's eternal battles against sworn enemies.