Moishe, Purim, and de pushke

The holiday of Purim follows the canonical Jewish holiday pattern: they tried to kill us; we won; let's eat. On Purim, it is traditional to bring each other gifts of food and drinks. We call these gifts Shalach Manos. A traditional snack often included in Shalach Manos is hamentashen, baked triangular treats with sweet filling. Hamen is the villain of the Purim story, and in Hebrew the treat is called אוזן המן‎ (ozen Haman) meaning Haman's ear.

When I was growing up, hamentashen were pastries (think triangular croissant) filled with prunes, poppyseed (mohn, pronounced something between moon and mun), or maybe fruit preserves. That was what bakeries made. At home, people typically made a cookie variety (triangular, of course), with similar fillings, tending toward fruit preserves.

It's been years since I saw the pastry variety of hamentashen. Since I've spent the last few years in NYC, last year I tried to track down the hamentashen of my youth. On Second Ave. just south of 7th Street, I found Moishe's Bake Shop, and when I showed up on Purim morning last year, they had both pastry and cookie hamentashen, but they were made the day before, and pastry pretty much has to be fresh. The cookie variety is more robust.

This year, I arrived at Moishe's early, the morning before Purim began (one day earlier than last year), and the place looked closed. Not just after hours closed, but windows papered with plain brown paper closed. Are you kidding me? Well, they have another shop on the Lower East Side at 504 Grand Street, Moishe's Bakery, so I went there, arriving around 8am, but they were also closed. However, it was a normal looking closed. I was disappointed though, and Siri did not have an answer for "hamentashen near me." So I headed for work.

But wait; there's more. Mid afternoon, I called Moishe's, and I asked about the shops and the hours. An older man answered, and when I mentioned the shop had been closed in the morning, he started aggressively asking me questions, “What do you mean it wasn't open? What time were you there?” I asked if this was Moishe, and it was! I wished him פורים שמח (Purim sameach or happy Purim) and said I just wanted hamentashen. He said to go back to the shop and tell them Moishe sent me, and they'll give me a good deal. An hour or two later, I called the shop directly and confirmed they'd be open until 6pm, and they still had plenty of hamentashen.

At 5:15 or so, I left work for the CitiBike station, and bumped into two colleagues preparing to ride, Bill to Grand Central, and Enrique along Grand Street. Enrique and I rode 2/3 of my route together before he broke off to take a bridge to Brooklyn. Enrique rode off calling Purim sameach (with an excellent accent).

I arrived at Moishe's around 5:40, delighted to see pastry hamantaschen on the counter and boxes and boxes of cookie hamantaschen on the shelf. The proprietor, had begun his Purim celebration early with a little wine (or a lot), I think. He was nice enough, and I told him I wanted a dozen pastry hamantaschen and a couple of dozen of the smaller cookie variety. “You have mohn?” ,"Only in the cookies. This morning we had everything”. (But you weren't open!!!)

The customer after me was also interested in a pastry hamantaschen, but was hesitant to take one I might have ordered. I told him I was buying his hamentashen for him as a gift, and he balked, thanking me but declining. I didn't take no for an answer, saying it was Purim, and it would taste better as a gift. The proprietor backed me up, "It's Purim; he's right!" My new friend accepted; we introduced ourselves, and had a nice chat.

When the bill came (~$56), I whipped out my credit card ... cash or check only. I don't have the cash ... . The proprietor said, “I'll give you my address, and you'll send a check later”. There was an ATM across the street, but the fellow protested, "They charge a dollar and a half; you'll send a check later." I just wanted to settle my bill, so I went for the cash. I returned a few minutes later, and the proprietor said the fellow I treated, who had left, was so happy that he insisted on putting $5 "in de pushke," a charity box, "for your health!" I thanked him for telling me and gestured to put my change in de pushke as well. While it's always good to give charity, it's especially so on Purim.

I got my pastry hamentashen, and ate it too. I think by the next day I ate it three. Speaking of the next day, Purim itself, I chose two primary targets for the hamentashen. I brought a bag of the pastry variety to Gary and Jolee, the proprietors of Thompson Alchemists, my pharmacy. Jolee was so excited, I can't even tell you. I also gave most of the cookie hamentashen to my new PT place in Chinatown, City PT, which has become a critical aspect of my physical care.

And next year? Perhaps בשנה הבאה בירושלים –next year in Jerusalem.

(Thanks to my dear friend Chaya for helping me turn my random thoughts into English with אַ ביסל פון יידיש וקצת עברית —a bisl fun eydish v'ktzat ivrit— a bit of Yiddish & a bit of Hebrew.)

Heller Web Space: Images - Notes - Travel - Memories