Wednesday, March 26, 2008

An Ode to Hamentashen

There's something I don't understand about Jesus. I'll admit that Easter is one of my favorite holidays because as a writer there's no greater story than the drama that is the life of Jesus Christ. Betrayal, a hooker, death. Come on, if those aren't ingredients for Jerry Springer I don't know what is. My only question is why couldn't we have some cookies thrown in for the after-party? You are risen homey, why not celebrate with a nice sugar cookie?

This is where I look to my Jewish brothers and sisters. Matzah ball soup, challah and that miraculous thing called a bagel (only from NYC, please), are just a few examples of some of the beauties of the Jewish culture. And then I found out about hamentashen.

I walk into work last Thursday and I see someone added this on my Outlook calendar: hamentashen contest. First, I love my job and second, it turns out that at the same time I'm celebrating the triumphs and tragedies of Easter, Jewish people are celebrating Purim. I asked them what this was all about but got a bit distracted by the fact that there were cookies involved and so I did what any other normal person would do, eat the cookies and go to Wikipedia afterwards.

Here are my findings: Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from Haman's plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther. Purim is celebrated mainly by giving away sweets to friends and family. The "in thing" to give is of course, hamenstashen. A hamantash is a pastry in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine recognizable for its three-cornered shape, said to represent Haman's hat. They are made with many different flavors, including prunes, nut, poppy, date, apricot, fruit preserves, chocolate, or even caramel or cheese.

Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

I had to try every flavor available to me at the time: almond, apricot, poppy and raspberry. My favorite was the poppy, the sweet grainy texture of the paste a perfect balance to the dense buttery dough. I have to say though, if you had put a chocolate hamantash in front of my face I'm sure it would have been like the best day ever, aside from the day I stalked Mario Batali on the streets of NY to see if he would feed me at Lupa for free. See photo for proof. Can you spot his signature orange crocs? I'm beginning to really miss NYC artists, where are you guys hiding in DC? But, I digress again.

I guess we always wish for what we can't have - legs like Charlize Theron, an ass like Kim Kardashian, for Ken Paves to leave Jessica Simpson once and for all to travel with us on bad hair months. You get the point. As I sat around my office conference table on Purim, I had to be grateful for the experience in front of me. Where else can you find a girl lucky enough to be eating hamentaschen with her boss and her co-workers during working hours, dispelling rumors about celebrities and passing around invitations for a Friday night outing?

Even if we are stuck with a dreadful Easter ham and cheap, indistinguishable grocery store salads dressed in all sorts of mayonnaise, isn't it all just about togetherness? It's about that Uncle pinching your love handles and comparing you to the fat, arthritic Aunt that kisses you with a slippery smack with each hello and goodbye. It's about watching your mom remind your dad about his cholesterol when he reaches for another Peep. For me Easter will be about sitting around the table with my family, a crazy bunch of Filipinos and Americans and Filipino-Americans ready to stuff themselves until its time to make the long drive home, where ever that might be.

I guess this is just one of those times where you have to look at the bigger picture. I'm sorry to get all Wonder Years on you but as I get older, I'll always want what I can't have but more and more I'm so happy with what's in front of me.

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