Last week I wrote about some recent adventures foraging in my fridge and freezer for ingredients for our meals. I continued this practice last week to prepare our annual Purim dinner. A recent post full of some background and recipes of Purim specialties from Jewish communities around the world also guided my choices. Here it is if you’re interested: https://www.aish.com/h/purim/p/Purim_Foods_around_the_World.html
Food traditions at the most rejoicing of Jewish celebrations are wrapped around history and symbolism associated with this intriguing holiday. Purim commemorates the story of the deliverance of the Jews of ancient Persia from the autocratic plans of the wicked viceroy Haman. Many of the foods directly represent the characters recalled in the joyous celebrations: Queen Esther, her uncle Mordechai, King Ahasuarus, and the scheming Haman (see March 9, 2020 post for more).
The majority of them related to the dreaded Haman. No matter how hated this adversary was, his memory cannot be forgotten, noise is made every time his name is mentioned when the story of Esther is read. Many foods symbolically represent his physical features. The Jews of Morocco (boyoja ungola di Purim) and the Jews of Rhodes (folares) both baked hard boiled eggs into dough to looking like his eyes. Sephardic Jews in Bulgaria enjoyed Haman’s hair, caveos di aman, a pasta dish dressed with olive oil and lemon and served with hard boiled egg wedges.
Haman is recalled in many sweets prepared around the world. “Haman’s Ears” are replicated in the Orecchi di Aman, a classic Italian Jewish Purim fried treat. The French Jewish dessert, palmiers, also revision Haman’s the misshapen ears. In the Ottoman Empire, Jews ate Haman’s “fingers,” a rolled nut stuffed filo pastry. Then there are “Haman’s fleas,” a candy made with sesame or poppy seeds by Jews in Syria (simsemiyeh) and Iran (nanbrangi).
Purim is a holiday which is celebrated by masquerading, after all, Esther concealed her Jewish identity and name (Hadassah) from the monarch. This theme of disguise is part of the whole celebration: we dress up in costumes, and it is customary to eat “hidden” foods, such as kreplach and ravioli (with fillings covered with dough).
Our household celebrated Purim this year with a meal with turkey and beans. Turkey has been associated with King Ahasuerus of the Purim story. In Hebrew, turkey is tarnegol hodu or “Indian chicken.” Ahasuerus ruled from Ethiopia to India. Queen Esther who did not live openly as a Jew in his court, ate mostly beans to maintain her commitment to kosher.
Our two course Purim dinner fit for a king was drawn from a freezer excavation. First was a hearty soup made with a turkey carcass from a previous meal and two turkey wings. I cheated this year and used a package of soup mix found in the pantry for the beans.
First, I put the turkey into a pot of water along with the soup mix and simmered for about 2 hours, as per the instructions on the package. Then I added the spice package as well as some salt and dried basil leaves. After about another hour, I fished out the bones, removed the meat when cooled, and returned it to the soup. Perhaps because of the wings, the cooled broth was super gelatinous.
A small turkey tenderloin also excavated from the freezer was transformed into a tasty schnitzel* using my newly adopted Michael Solomonov recipe – https://www.foodrepublic.com/recipes/fry-up-michael-solomanovs-chicken-schnitzel-with-passionfruit/. The bread crumbs were salvaged from wonderful IKEA crackers that no one was eating. Ours was a delicious commemorative Purim meal that the entire family enjoyed.
* Apologies, dear readers, I forgot to take photos. An upcoming zoom was calling for me.
Speaking of Michael Solomonov, he is in the midst of hosting a weekly 16-week zoom program – Bringing Israel Home. The link to the program and also all the recipes is – https://www.jewishfoodsociety.org/bringingisraelhome/
And if your favorite for Purim is still hamentaschen, that wonderful triangular, filled cookie, here’s the recipe from New York’s iconic restaurant Zabar’s – My Zabar’s hamentaschen revelation – The Forward
And more, a recent zoom from London of Iraqi Purim treats … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAc3nEzNTEE&feature=youtu.be.
Now we start to plan for our second lock-down Passover seder at the end of the month. There are sure to be some zoom presentations of interesting recipes to look forward to in the next few weeks – stay tuned and … stay safe!
Love the ideas! I wonder if the lack of general familiarity outside the Jewish community with Purim food is because the holiday is just one day (two in more observant communities), as compared to Chanukah and Passover (8 days for latkes, 8 days for matzah).
Absolutely, the lack of knowledge and for a long time the lack of respect for non Askenazi communities.