Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Haman Who?

Many years ago, I had a dear friend who was old enough to be my mother. She was Jewish, although she didn’t practice her faith. She did practice some incredible cooking that was based on a foundation of having been raised in a Jewish kitchen! I was happy to tag along on some of these cooking adventures … and my husband was happy that I did. Our favorite dish was something she called “chopped liver” and my husband called “chicken liver pate”! My friend Louise mashed her cooked livers with a potato masher … but throw a new 1970s food processer in the mix and you have a beautifully creamed pate. I use her recipe still today and have shared it with scores of friends.

Louise brought a cookie to a Christmas cookie exchange one year that was a cute, buttery rich gem filled with jam. It reminded me of a Colonial tri-cornered hat. When I asked for the recipe later, I learned that it had nothing to do with Colonial times or Christmas for that matter, but everything to do with the Old Testament days of Queen Esther!

Haman Recognizes His Fate” by Rembrandt (1606-1669)

The name of the cookie is Hamantaschen and here’s the story. Haman was the bad guy in the story of Queen Esther. Hamantaschen symbolize Haman’s pockets … filled with bribes … or perhaps Haman’s 3-cornered hat (which Rembrandt did not depict in the painting above!) … or possibly Haman’s ears!

Esther and Mordecai Writing the First Purim Letter by Aert de Gelder, c.1685

Esther was a young Jewish woman in Persia who was first taken to the King’s harem. King Xerxes fell in love with her and made her his Queen. Through her guardian and cousin Mordecai, Esther learned that the King’s prime minister Haman had a plot to kill all the Jews. That would include Queen Esther, even though Xerxes didn’t realize she was Jewish. She came to conclude that she had to save the Jewish people, even if it meant giving up her secret and facing punishment or possibly death. The purpose of the story is to tell us that God puts us in the right places at the right times and that God is always working in the background. Esther told her King. The Jewish people were saved. Xerxes had Haman hanged and Esther remained his Jewish Queen.

I like the fact that food historians aren’t really sure what the three points of the cookie resemble. It is possible that the cookie is called ‘ears’ stemming from the Middle Ages when it was customary to cut off a crook’s ears. Maybe Haman lost his ears in addition to being hanged. Religious historians even think it could mean that Haman finally came to realize the power of the Old Testament Patriarchs Abraham and his two sons. It could simply resemble his three cornered hat.

The cookie is part of the culinary celebration of Purim. This year, Purim is celebrated February 25th – 26th. The holiday commemorates saving the Jewish people from Haman. I don’t think you have to be Jewish to want to celebrate the knowledge that God is always at work in the background of our lives!

These little cookies are delicious. You can use lots of things as the filling, but the originals had a poppyseed jam in the middle. Mine, which are not beautiful, are filled with something called Traffic Jam … a combination of fruits! Some people put a cream filling in them and others make them in a savory version. My next batch will be filled with herbed goat cheese, and we’ll enjoy them with wine!

Easy Hamantasch

3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup orange juice
5 cups of flour and another half cup for rolling.
1 Tablespoon of baking powder

Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy. Whisk in the oil, almond extract and orange juice. Blend the flour and baking powder. Combine the flour a cup at a time … into the wet ingredients. I use the dough hook on my mixer to make this easier. The dough looks a little like pie crust. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour.

Roll the dough on a floured surface 1/4 inch thick. Cut into circles. I find a 3 inch circle is easy to work with. Place the circles on a greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Brush them with egg wash, so the corners will stick together. Put a Tablespoon of jam in the middle and pull the edges up, pinching the corners together. Bake them for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool them on the cookie sheet before removing them. If the jam runs out … let it! My friend used to dust her cookies with powdered sugar! They are so good.

This post is a part of my 2021 Foods Named after Famous People project! The star of this story is without a doubt … Esther! Without old mean Haman, though, there wouldn’t be a story.


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