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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sending Out the Love

Must.

Wrap.

One.

More.

Stack.

Of.

Golden Gamonkey cookies.

The jellybean satchels were what almost broke me. You can barely see one in this picture because it's hidden by the larger cellophane-wrapped brownie package (with two kinds of brownies--a triple chocolate brownie and a standard brownie with walnuts), but I made jellybean bundles in the leftover pink gauze from my daughter's Queen Esther costume. By the 15th one, I began chanting, "this was a bad idea" as I tied each string closure.

Purim is a little bit like a cross between Halloween and Mardi Gras. There's a lot of drinking. And a lot of costumes. And a lot of beads being passed out to women who show their breasts in shul (just kidding about that last one...or am I?). Instead of going house-to-house collecting candy, Jews have set up a much more efficient system of mailing packages to one another during this holiday. And there are rules to giving mishloach manot (as these packages are called). Halloween should take a page from Purim's book and set up some rules so that kids know that they're not going to end up with a toothbrush or a walnut if they visit certain houses on the street.

A few of the rules to giving mishloach manot: at the bare minimum, you must send two types of food to one person. The food needs to be ready-to-eat. It can be two forms of the same type of food (such as two types of cookies or two types of noodle dishes--though who the fuck sends noodles through the mail? Or wants to receive macaroni and cheese as a gift?). Two people can send their mishloach manot together who are unmarried, but they need to include double the portion (so four gifts of food). Married people can give their mishloach manot together as a single package (just another reason to join in the fight to make all marriages legal). It is preferable to send the package via a third-party in order to complete the mitzvah (commandment), but if you have to give it face-to-face, it's okay. You cannot send your package anonymously.

So I spent the entire weekend and first part of this week putting together my mishloach manot packages so they could go out on time. In addition to gifts for kids (because we give our Christmas-like presents on Purim), we're sending the aforementioned two types of brownies, golden gamonkey cookies, hamantaschen, smarties (the American kind), Hershey kisses, and jellybean bundles. A gigantic mass of sugar. I think I absorbed sugar through my pores--is that possible? Because I feel like I've ingested massive quantities of sugar.

So, yes, I will be that woman at the post office in a few minutes, furiously stuffing boxes with a layer of tissue paper and addressing labels at the counter. And I'm sorry. But we have big families. And there are many people out there who need a little box of love this week.

If you're looking for something to distract you during a wait, may I suggest putting together your own mishloach manot packages? First of all, even though I woke up feeling anxious-as-all-get-out yesterday, I didn't have time to focus on anything except wrapping baked goods in cellophane or gauze. Secondly, you can obsess, OBSESS, about making the perfect card to go in each package. That will waste at least two hours of time that you would have used to think about an upcoming sonogram or peeing on a stick (I used at least an hour searching the Internet for the perfect quote about imbibing alcohol to kick off our card). The trip to the post office alone can take up to an hour roundtrip. And then you get to pick at the candy and cookies while you package them. The other person feels so good receiving your package and they have no idea that you used this activity to take your mind off your own wait. How perfect is that?

16 comments:

Flmgodog said...

Ahhh....Purim, one of my favorite holidays...
I will be traveling to NY from the midwest for Purim. We will be in Boro Park and that is the best hamtashen ever (except my sister's).
I wish Purim wasn't during tax season, then I could really do it up right!!!
Your gifts sound awesome!!!

Flmgodog said...

Whoops... excuse me while I re-spell h-a-m-a-n-t-a-s-c-h-e-n.
I really can spell and they are my very favorite cookie. Apricot only NO PRUNE or POPPY SEED!!!

Roy said...

What a wonderful distraction! But what about those of us who are not Jewish? Not even in that "I buy my ceremonial baked goods rather than bake myself" kind of way.

Might I suggest an alternative? Deployed soldiers get a crap load of stuff around the other holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year), but by now they've eaten every odd-flavored candy cane that has been sent. They could probably use a little something to feel the love from back home. Care packages are to soldiers like birthdays are to young children.

I have a few soldiers I love over there, Purim seems like the perfect excuse to send a care package. For those who don't know any personally, visit http://anysoldier.com/ and pick one. There are links to each branch (soldier=army, sailor=navy, marine=marine corps, airman=air force). http://www.operationusocarepackage.org/site/pp.asp?c=ikLVJ7MSKvH&b=569653 is a site where you donate $25 and they create the care package for you (with random items that are often requested by service members- phone cards, sunscreen, etc). I think DOD prefers the USO site, because it doesn't give out specific information, but I believe that both work fine.

Didn't mean to hijack, the service members are just always on my mind and this seemed like the perfect alternative for non-Jewish readers.

Oh, and great job! I made 4 pumpkin rolls for Thanksgiving and wanted to shoot DH for asking for them in the first place. It is a true testament of willpower to make all those goodies knowing that you're just sending them away (tradition or not, I don't slave away in my kitchen if I'm not the one getting the most benefit).

theoneliner said...

hmmmm....that sounds like a GREAT idea. i'm at the end of this month's 2WW...but maybe next month.
You're little miss good ideas now aren't ya'?

mandolyn said...

How incredibly cool!

Just reading the word "brownies" has me rummaging through my desk drawer in search of something chocolate. (It isn't working- and the oatmeal packets in there refuse to look either gooey or delicious)

pink said...

The bigger question here that nobody has raised is how do I get on Mel's mailing list for Purim goodie boxes? I'm already married, so I can't marry into her family. Hmm. Does she need a sister? I'm willing to be adopted by her parents. Or, heck, would Mel like a 37-year-old daughter? I'm kind of cute, have curly hair (color dependent on my mood), and would make a fascinating addition to your annual family photo. I wouldn't even have to convert. Think about it.

The Town Criers said...

An hour later and I'm finally finished at the post office. I told you that we have a big family. The post office also received a package since I forgot to get an address before I left the house. So since there was a box left over...

But if I had had Pink's address, it would have gone to you. My newest family member :-)

Those were just the packages to be mailed. Now comes the larger wave of packages that will be hand-delivered on Saturday/Sunday...

sariel & shlomit said...

OY! I feel tired just reading that!!! And like a bad, scrooge-like jew....
BUT I"M ALSO INSPIRED!!!

you've got some lucky friends..


peace
shlomit

~r said...

Why, oh why isn't there a secular version of this holiday??

Eh, well, I'm pretty sure my friends and family wouldn't return it if I sent a box of goodies to them.. so maybe I can still celebrate.

(and what appropriate timing as I sit here tonight struggling with the pre-ultrasound jitters before tomorrow's appointment)

Melissa said...

AHhhhhhhhhhhhh! I wondered about the fruity wine by the Matzo ball mix at the grocery store on their own *SPECIAL* end cap!

Now I know why!

I learn something new every day from you!

Carla said...

I love it---I have been desperately searching for a distraction and going quietly insane during this 2ww after IUI #1. No testing until at least this weekend. And I haven't had hamantaschen in years (I'm not even Jewish!). An attorney I used to work for would get a nice big package from his mother every year with the most delicious homemade apricot and prune cookies--yum!!
Carla

sharah said...

I'm simultaneously in awe of your baking, presentation, and organization skills and feeling very jealous of the lucky people getting packages :) And I'd guess that yes, you can absorb sugar through your skin because I'm getting a sugar rush just seeing the pictures online.

pink said...

Darn, for want of an address, my stomach goes empty. (Yeah, empty. Right. Because the tub-o-mini-brownies from Costco isn't being eaten at all.)

I'm having a playdate on Friday and might get myself in a baking mood, care to share your hamantaschen recipe, Mel?

The Town Criers said...

I will warn that my hamantaschen recipe is for shit. Every year, I try a new recipe and every year, I'm disappointed. But share I will...

4 sticks of butter, softened (I never said my recipes were healthy!)
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
4 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

In a standing mixer, cream the butter, sugar and salt together until light and fluffy. Beat in the yolks on at a time and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add flour gradually.

Wrap dough tightly in saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Roll out dough and use a cookie cutter to make small circles. Place a small amount of jam in the center and squeeze into a triangle. Place the cookie tray into the freezer for at least 15 minutes. And then bake for about 12 minutes at 350F.

A warning--these hamantaschen sort of flopped and spread in the baking process. Still in search for a better recipe. What about Stacie's?

The Town Criers said...

Oh--and you definitely don't have to be Jewish to send mishloach manot. Just surprise all friends and family by sending out random gift boxes :-)

Karen said...

Great post! I normally take great joy in putting together my mishloach manot. This year, I've not been quite organized enough, but it will all happen, as it always does. I expect to be up all night Saturday night baking miniature braided challahs for my local shaloch manos! (after the megillah reading, of course)

Just one small thing... you said, It can be two forms of the same type of food (such as two types of cookies or two types of noodle dishes--though who the fuck sends noodles through the mail? Or wants to receive macaroni and cheese as a gift?).

This is, in fact, not the case. Your two foods must be two different kinds of foods... foods that would require different brachot... so, say, a cookie (mezonot) and an apple (ha-eitz). Or a bottle of water (shehakol) and challah (motzi).