By Betsy Andrews

Published on December 19, 2012

My mother's family is Jewish. But not that Jewish. My mother substituted her lapsed Hebrew in the holiday blessing with "hurrah for Hanukkah," and whatever I knew about Passover I learned from Cecil B. DeMille. I didn't know what Purim was until I was nine and attended art classes at the Jewish Youth Center near our house in Philadelphia. In late winter, the drama students put on a play wherein the evil Haman bribes the king of Persia to allow him to kill the Jews. Luckily, the king's favorite wife, Esther, outs herself as Jewish. In a stunning reversal, the king orders Haman hanged, Persian Jewry is saved, and a day is set aside for feasting. Forthwith, we children were served cookies—jam- and poppy seed-filled triangles representing, we were told, Haman's three-cornered hat. Now, the cookies I knew. They were hamantaschen. My grandmother made delectable jewel-like versions year-round; they blew the Youth Center's dry, cakey ones away. Grandma Syl's flaky cream cheese pastry was shaped into tiny triangles framing sweet dollops of her homemade raspberry and apricot-pineapple jams. As I've learned, Purim, which starts on February 23 this year, also calls for mishloach manot, or "sending portions"—giving baskets of sweets to friends and relatives. I may not be the most observant of Jews, but with my Grandma Syl's fantastic recipe in hand, this is one ritual I can master.

Continue to Next Story

Want more SAVEUR?

Get our favorite recipes, stories, and more delivered to your inbox.