I walk into the bakery, which is my second home of sorts. And what do I see? Endless trays of hammentaschen… This is only one section there were 4 times this many, with trays propped on every glass showcase on the floor. The bakery was flooded with hammentaschen. This was no ordinary day.
“What’s going on? Today must be a Jewish holiday!” “Yes,” one of my two favorite workers at the bakery responded. “ “Purim,” she answered. I knew something was up. This amount of hammentashen is only baked for Jewish holidays. So then my friend working there says, “It’s all about Esther. Do you know her story?” “No,” I respond. “Well let me give you the short version….It’s like pretty much every Jewish holiday..Our people are being persecuted. We fight the bad guys. The bad guys lose, the Jews triumph, and then everybody eats.”
She made me laugh, but she also got me wondering about Esther. So, I went home and looked her up. This is what I found. “Esther, the beautiful Jewish wife of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), and her cousin Mordecai persuade the king to retract an order for the general annihilation of Jews throughout the empire. The massacre had been plotted by the king’s chief minister, Haman, and the date decided by casting lots (purim).”
Wow! So maybe the hamen in hamentaschen is actually related to the chief minister,Haman. Taschen in German means bags. So maybe these are pastry bags to celebrate a victory over Haman? I don’t know but I am fascinated to know that there is somebody named Haman involved and that the name of the pastry could be rooted in the old Testament. You learn something new every day. As someone who is very fond of hammentashen, in any season, I find this amazing.
I leave the bakery armed with three boxes or hammentaschen; apple, raspberry, and apricot. And I feel connected to Purim through these little triangles folded over scrumptious fillings. Heidelberg is a German bakery that knows how to celebrate the holidays of a myriad of cultures. Along with the hammentaschen, I leave with Irish soda bread, which is actually far tastier than most Irish soda bread.
I am a regular at the bakery and don’t miss much in the way of celebrating with food throughout the year. This is the bakery that baked our wedding cake, as well as our daughter’s cake. Our son, who worked at the bakery himself for a while, made his own wedding cake. I know everyone there, I have good friends there and I always feel right at home. This bakery is for me is the equivalent of the corner pub on the Eastenders ( a favorite BBC series) I get my coffee, find a table and settle in a couple times a week. I rarely leave without running into more people I know.
I also leave feeling fuller than when I arrived. Sometimes you can chalk that up to lemon stars, cheese danish, or cronuts. Sometimes the fullness comes from unexpected encounters. Today it came from learning about Purim and about hammentaschen. So, now I am wondering, what is the story behind rugulah? Hmmm…..