The Hamantashen

I don’t like cakey cookies.

Lisa waxes rhapsodic about black and whites. I’ve got no interest, if I’m eating a cookie I want chocolate, I want richness, I want to be titillated, I want to smile with satisfaction, I want to be reminded of a continuum of cookies all the way from the past into the future!

The first cookies I remember eating were Fudgetowns.

I marvel at the fact that I grew up in a house with a full fridge and full cupboards. How do you keep all that food in stock? In the junk drawer was a giant Hershey’s candy bar, which my mother used to break off a part of every other day or so. But once we kids discovered it, it wasn’t long for the kitchen.

But we had plenty of cookies. Mostly Pepperidge Farm, seconds. On the Post Road in Westport, they had a Pepperidge Farm outlet store. My father used to bring home packages of cookies and I remember us having the first goldfish in our neighborhood. This was back when Pepperidge Farm was exotic, when the whole concept of luxury snack goods was barely a thing. Haagen-Dazs? That didn’t break until the mid-seventies.

And I’m not talking about those giant Pepperidge Farm cookies of today, the Nantuckets and the Chesapeakes. The cookies were smaller, although larger than the usual store bought cookies. And the packages had three tiers, with three or four cookies in each paper cup. Resulting in a grand total of twelve or fifteen cookies in the whole package. This did not make any sense to me, god, you could eat the whole bag in one sitting. I don’t want to hold back when I’m eating, that’s no fun, the key is to eat until you’re satiated, if not oversatiated, stuffed. Come on, when you’re hungry and you sit down with a bag of cookies or a bag of potato chips…MMMM!

And I’ll never forget, I think I’ve told you before, about the last day of second grade. Taught by Miss Kamph. I looked her up a couple of months back. She taught until retirement, in her sixties, and she never got married. This was rare back then…all the young female teachers were there for a couple of years and then they were gone forever, sometimes they came back for a year or so with a new name and then they left when they started a family. I know, I know, this sounds sexist. But don’t criticize me for telling the truth.

Anyway, the last day was kind of a party day. This was when school ended towards the end of June, when we never went back until after Labor Day, when August was still a vacation month. And it seems to me I wore my clam diggers. That was a thing back then, for both boys and girls. And we had to bring a snack. And my mother gave me two packages of Pepperidge Farm chocolate cookies. I winced, I complained, there were so few, not even enough for each member of my class to have one. But my mother made me take them and then nobody ate them, they were too sophisticated for young, middle class suburban palates.

Yes, there were Pepperidge Farm chocolate cookies, kind of bland. And my father brought home Brussels and Genevas and…none of them were to my liking, and then of course there were the Milanos. Those have sustained. But it took me a few years to cotton to them, to learn to love them.

But at first we started with grocery store cookies, like the aforementioned Fudgetowns. Which didn’t come loose in a box, but in two wax paper sleeves. You knew once you broke the seal freshness was evaporating, nearly instantly, so that would be a constant mental debate, after you finished one sleeve…did you crack the second? That was my idea of a good time, downstairs in the playroom of our split level, watching cartoons on the black and white TV, eating Fudgetowns.

The next time I remember eating cookies was in college, you could buy these Freihofer chocolate chips. Scrumptious. They came loose in a rectangular container with a plastic window. They weren’t huge, but they weren’t small. And you’d buy a box and devour the whole thing in one setting. They were kind of like Entenmann’s, but better. Not that Entenmann’s are not great. Freihofers were doughy, almost not cooked enough, but somehow perfect.

And in college my sister Wendy made me a member of the Keebler cookie club. Gotta love those little elves. But chocolate chip cookies remain my favorite. There’s no cookie too rich for me. As a matter of fact, my favorite cookie ever was David’s. This was back when the chocolate chip cookie mania truly took hold, the eighties and nineties. It started with Famous Amos, which were small and overrated. As for Mrs. Fields? Before she became greedy and expanded and diversified, when you went to the store, they were pretty damn good. But David’s were soft and gooey and could have a complete layer of chocolate in them. What’s not to like? Especially when they were warm.

As for those yellow cookies representing bland dough, UGH! My cookie had to be sweet, and preferably chocolate. As for oatmeal? Come on, I never ate it for breakfast and I don’t want it in my cookies. I didn’t want a hint of flavor, I wanted a BLAST! Especially as you grow older, if you’re gonna eat a damn cookie go all the way. Like the people who buy de-caloried faux ice cream for their freezer. If you’re gonna partake, go big! Start with Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Phish Food is amazing, Cherry Garcia overrated. But I’ve yet to find a B&J flavor that does not deliver.

Those cookies in the deli case… Who are they making them for? Barely sweet, maybe with a splash of chocolate icing. Hell, if I want chocolate icing I’ll go to Dairy Queen. I want a hit of the real thing!

But now I might be changing my tune, because of the damn hamantashen.

Felice bought a Zabars’ goodie box for Valentine’s. Now that’s a present I can get down with. And yesterday I had bagels and lox… You can’t get this kind of lox in Los Angeles, actually Zabars calls it “Novie.” It’s oily, it reminds me of the smoked salmon of yore, that my father used to bring home from the deli on Sunday mornings. Sunday brunch, that was a big thing. I’d like that every week as an adult!

And of course Felice got a babka, come on!

But she also ordered hamantashen.


I’ve yet to find a non-Jew who craves hamantashen. It’s a three-cornered cookie for Purim, a holiday most non-Jews would have trouble knowing, never mind eating the food. Where did she get this craving? Previously she was married to a Jew, but I don’t remember him being very observant. And she’ll go to seders with me, but I don’t remember ever celebrating Purim, never mind eating hamantashen. And by time Felice came into the picture my nephews were out of school, there was no carnival to go to, no dressing up as Ester or Haman.

The hamantashen came in a box. There were four different flavors. You know, apricot inside, strawberry… And that’s one of the big problems with hamantashen, there’s just not enough juice, just not enough nougat, just not enough of the good stuff inside! The ratio of jelly/sweet to cookie is WAY off. The cookie should be de minimis, the stuffing should dominate.

But not with a hamantashen.

Which come in different sizes. You can find a mini-hamantashen and a giant hamantashen. Usually, the minis are better, because of the ratio referenced above, you get more of the gooey inside. All that cookie in the giant ones…UGH! It’s almost torture to finish one. Oh, that’s one thing about cookies, you touch it, you own it. You start it, you finish it. No tasting is permitted. And if you want to switch to another offering, you’ve got to finish what you started with first. The thought of one of those dry hamantashen in my mouth while I’m eying something better…those are painful memories.

But that box, I could not resist it. Felice ate one, I decided to dip in, reluctantly, but I wanted to taste the apricot inside.

Wow, this is different. There’s something about the cookie. It’s satisfying in its own right. I didn’t believe it! I had to ask Felice, “Exactly what do you like about hamantashen?” She started going on about the cookie, when I thought she’d mention the inside stuffing, and that’s when I thought she was on to something. Well, that’s when I thought there was something special about these hamantashen.

And I don’t want to waste my carbs on hamantashen, I’d rather toast and eat another bagel, smother it with cream cheese. But today I remembered the hamantashen of yesterday and I decided to jump back in, obviously yesterday’s festival of taste was an anomaly, right?

WRONG! So I pick up another hamantashen and I decide to partake of it slowly, which is not my style, I’m not a nibbler. And that damn cookie, the yellow part, the part I’ve always hated, is DELECTABLE! I can’t really describe it properly. There’s a slightly sweet taste, and it crumbles in your mouth, but it doesn’t reek of flour and I can’t believe I’ve eaten hamantashen my entire life and have never experienced the holy grail, this!

That’s how life is, you wallow in mediocrity and then you experience greatness and you can’t believe what you’ve missed.

The BMWs of yore. When they all had relatively stiff suspensions, with that tight steering. You drove it once, you had to own it.

People complain about the price of things. Good enough is good enough. ONLY IT ISN’T!

It’s one thing if you can’t afford great. Not everybody can own a BMW, not even an iPhone. But when it comes to cookies? EVERYBODY CAN LIVE LIKE A KING! Why buy the low rent grocery store cookies when for just a bit more you can have the experience of a lifetime.

That’s exactly what I thought eating this hamantashen just now. Thoughts of Covid vacated my brain. As did thoughts of career. My age? My physical infirmities, my health issues? GONE! All I could do was revel in the moment. I was at one with the hamantashen. This was a peak experience, as good as it gets.

I just had to tell you.

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