If you enjoy chauffeuring your kids around town while navigating streets littered with potentially schnaapsed-up individuals who are convinced that the traffic laws do not apply to them, then Purim is a special time for you.
I gave my neighbor a sandwich and piece of cake last year on Purim. He was so moved by the gesture of my sharing shaloch manos with him, that he revoked the restraining order against me. The joke is on him, because the bread was mezonos.
Sometimes the greatest advances in society are of the low-tech variety. Mezonos bread would have to be counted on anyone’s list of top advances of the modern era. Personally I haven’t bentched in four years. At this stage, I couldn’t tell you on a bet whether it’s “magdil” or “migdol” on a weekday. My kids bentch. They are taught to in school, although I’m not sure why in this day and age. I just sit there and yell out “HAGADOL” at the appropriate times.
Ah, the magic of apple juice. If it can turn bread into cake, just imagine what else it can do. I believe we have just begun to harness its awesome power. I for one carry with me at all times a flask filled with the magical, amber nectar in case I get into a situation where I, chas veshalom, get served “hamotzie bread.” I simply sprinkle some on my sandwich to transform my foot-long hoagie into a little snack.
I get anxious this time of year, not so much on account of dreading costumes, shaloch manos, or Pesach preparations, but because of poppy seeds. For the uninitiated, poppy seeds are the pastry filling that looks like chocolate but tastes like gravel. They are more aptly characterized as an appetite suppressant than a food. Biting into a hamentash that you thought was filled with chocolate but which is actually poppy seed is an experience matched only by the horror of biting into a chicken nugget and realizing it’s a fish stick, or waiting up as a kid to watch Saturday Night Live only to find out WWF wrestling is on instead.
People of European extraction often refer to poppy seeds as “mun.” This apparently stems from their famously notorious sense of irony. The “mun” of the ancient Israelites always tasted like what you most wanted to eat, while poppy seeds always taste like what you least want to eat: poppy seeds. One had no place being in the desert, the other has no place being in a dessert.
The entire issue highlights a problem inherent to hamentashen: They are too open a prospect. Let’s face it, they could be filled with anything.
I like full disclosure from my baked goods—“chocolate chip cookies” pretty much says it all. No mystery there. There is a recent phenomenon of brownie-filled chocolate chip cookies and chocolate-chip-cookie-filled brownies that, while undeniably delicious, represent a slippery slope.
Poppy seed hamentashen are a cookie truly worthy of their name. Only on Purim would we eat a pastry named after the villain. You don’t hear of people gobbling up Stalin Snaps or Nebekeneezer Newtons or Panzer Tarts. Poppy seeds are like eastern European sprinkles, strewn like pixy dust on all manner of baked goods. Note to Bubbie: the magic is gone.
Seeing as this is a family newspaper, I will address myself to our younger readers: If you ask what is in a given dessert and you don’t get a straight answer, don’t eat it. It’s probably figs, carob, poppy seeds, or kale. If the answer was “cinnamon” or “chocolate,” they would have simply said “cinnamon” or “chocolate.” And kids, never trust a pastry named for a villain
When my children ask why some people put poppy seeds on challah, I tell them it is zecher l’chorban, or to quash the ayin horah of enjoying good challah.
People have asked me why I don’t simply tell others that I am allergic to poppy seeds. That seems problematic. I wouldn’t pretend to have a cold to avoid davening musaf for the amud. That is like stealing the handicap spot in people’s hearts.
People who give unsuspecting neighbors poppy seed cakes are the lowest of the low. They are only slightly above the level of people who leave re-gifted shaloch manos on your doorstep without ringing the bell.
If for reasons of unbridled misanthropy you feel compelled to share poppy seed hamentashen with friends and neighbors, the poem you compose for your shaloch manot card should reference this fact. As a public service I offer the following samples:
Roses are red
Violets are Blue
The Hametashen are poppy seed
‘Cause I don’t like you
Here is this year’s shaloch manos
Hope with your family they are a hit
By the way, that chocolaty filling –
Isn’t really chocolate…
To tell you the truth, I don’t even give out Hamentashen anymore. Instead, in my shaloch manos, I share my favorite pastry with my friends and family: Baklava with Rosewater.
Maybe it’s the apple juice talking, but I don’t want to end on a note of discord during this special time of unity. And so I raise my cup in brotherhood to all those who have acquired a taste for the most peculiar of dessert fillings, the poppy seed. And I implore others to do the same. Sure it’s a bit off, and you have little use for it, but, at the end of the day, you can see how some people might just be able to stomach it, sort of like the Jewish Link.
By Avi Lauer and Neil Sussman