All the Jewish holidays have been very early on the Julian calendar this year. Purim usually occurs in March, but this year, it was on Sunday, February 28th. Of course, on the Jewish calendar, it is always celebrated on the 14th day of the month of Adar.
The word “purim” means “lots,” a reference to the lottery Haman used to determine the day he would exterminate the Jews of Persia. His intentions were foiled by the beautiful Queen Esther, beloved of the king, Ahasuerus, and Haman was literally hoist on his own petard – hanged on the 14th of Adar on the very gallows he had intended for Mordechai, Esther’s adoptive father, who had refused to bow down to Haman.
The history of this event is told in The Book of Esther, aka The Megillah. It is read aloud in shul, and each time the name of the evil Haman comes up, gragors (noisemakers) are twirled and there are hisses and boos.
Celebrating this festive holiday involves carnivals, putting on plays, and children dressing up in costumes – something like a combination of Halloween and Mardi Gras. When I was in Hebrew school, I loved the carnivals that were put on each year. I also took part in two Purim plays. Both times, I played Zeresh, Haman’s wife. In one of them, a comedy, Haman was portrayed as a Macbeth-like wimp while power-hungry Zeresh, à la Lady Macbeth, was the one who comes up with the plan to kill the Jews and then urges him on to accomplish it. They had me chasing Haman down the aisle and around the stage threatening him with a rolling pin. I was something of a ham (o.k., not exactly the right word to choose with regard to Hebrew school productions), and enjoyed every minute of being on stage in these and other plays.
The concept of “eat, drink, and be merry” is central to Purim, and the food item most associated with it is, of course, the hamantasch, the triangular stuffed pastry named after the tri-corner hat worn by the villain.
On Purim, J and the P.G. came to the apartment for a holiday dinner cooked by yours truly. As is usual with my holiday dinners, this one began with my famous chopped salad.
I also made chopped liver. Broiled chicken livers, a hard-boiled egg, a boatload of fried onions, freshly-ground black pepper, and lots of peanut oil. No cuisinart for this. I use an old-fashioned wooden bowl and chopper.
The end result is very smooth and very delicious!
The main course was stuffed cabbage. Once each winter, I make a big pot of them, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.
It’s my grandmother’s recipe handed down to me by my aunt, and it results in stuffed cabbage that is truly fabulous! Steamed Yukon Gold potatoes make a simple but perfect accompaniment. (Click here for the recipe.)
Naturally, there were hamantaschen. I made one gluten-free batch for the P.G.
And another with regular dough.
The fillings for both were prune and apricot. This was the first time I’d made gluten-free hamantaschen. Though the dough was a little tricky to handle, once I got the hang of it, things went smoothly, and the resulting hamantaschen were wonderful.
I also baked a flourless walnut cake.
This was another first-time recipe, and I discovered that the baking time listed was much too long. Although I pulled the cake from the oven several minutes earlier than the stated time, I was concerned that the cake might be overdone. However, it turned out to be moist and delicious. I served it with Breyer’s Vanilla Ice Cream.
Now, on to the next holiday meal. Passover, also coming very early, is just two weeks away.