Sweet Haman's Ears
There is only one mandatory action on Purim, that is to hear the story of the deliverance of the Jews from the hands of their enemy, Haman. One might debate whether this was due to Esther’s sexual manipulation of the king at her uncle Mordecai’s urging or it was in fact due to divine intervention.
What is not in debate however is the ferocity of the Jewish observance of the event. Jewish custom is to get stinking drunk and yell, scream and stomp every time Haman’s name is read aloud and generally remind everyone that we hold grudges for a very long time.[Don’t believe me, the Jews are the only people to remember the tribe of Amelek- just so we can observe the commandment to blot out their memory. That’s more than 2000 years of holding a grudge because they tried to jump us in the desert.]
This extends into the foods consumed on Purim. Oznai Haman (Haman’s Ears) come in several forms, ranging from stuffed cookies to this interesting fried pasta recipe I found. Of all of the Purim foods I have seen these turned out to be the most life-like and perhaps raising the greatest number of questions for a liberal western Jew to answer as he presents a plate of these fried ears to his kids.
I invite you to offer your own thoughts on consuming something that looks so much like a body part, and remind you that between Haman and his 10 sons (who were all impaled on wood spikes) there would have been 22 ears, snacks for everyone.
There might not be a more boring Asheknazi dish out there. Kasha Varnishkes (or just Kasha as my Mother calls it) is bowtie pasta with buckwheat. The tan of the noodles, with the brown of the grain, along with the white of the onions and the gray of the mushroom might sound bland… and it is. Yet, for some reason, it is a classic family favorite. So where does kasha varnishkes even come from? Great question. Kasha, in Yiddish, means buckwheat, and varnishkes comes from “dumplings” (wait for it…). The Jews used to put the kasha (buckwheat) in dumplings. But over the years, the Jews got lazy, they found out about the wonders of Italian pasta, and voila, now we have “buckwheat dumplings” without the dumplings.
Many people simply add goodies with the cooked buckwheat to the noodles, without use of the oven. This is great, but I find that putting it in the oven for the final step gives the noodles a nice addition: the noodles on the edge turn crispy and delicious. I find this to be critical, but this step, I guess, is optional.
The other day, as I reached for the bowties at the grocery store, there were nice colorful (spinach, tomato, and squash medley) bowties right next to it. I thought, hmm, there will add some color… As I started to make this dish, I couldn’t go wrong. It is so simple. As I took it out of the oven, I had a quick taste, and some was awry. I screwed up! I forgot the add the water. Anyway, I tried to salvage it by adding water after the fact. It finally tasted ok, although my girlfriend of Russian decent was quick to notice my misstep.
Continue for recipe…