Saturday, March 22, 2003

Post-Purim Pirates

You probably thought today’s column would continue with more commentary in light of the US assault against Iraq.

But no. Even though it's almost a week later, it's still Purim in our house. And will be for some time now.

You see, the Post-Purim Pirates have arrived.

“Aye, matey, what booty have ye plundered this year?”

There are several mitzvot (commandments) for Purim: to hear the megillah (the Scroll of Esther); to give donations to the poor; to eat a festive Purim meal; and to send mishloah manot (Purim gifts of food and sweets) to friends.

Misloah manot officially must consist of at least two items with separate blessings (i.e., a fruit and a cookie) and must be sent to at least two people. But the custom in our community has turned this into a major production. Dozens of mishloah manot go back and forth between friends, coworkers, shul members.

First, there’s the list. It starts with obligatories: our neighbors and people who sent us an especially nice mishloah manot last year. To that we add our closest friends and then the kids’ friends. The tradition in our household is that, while Jody is getting ready for the festive meal, I take the kids out to deliver the goodies. I stay in constant touch by cell phone with Jody.

“Has anyone delivered a mishloah manot to us in the last five minutes?”

“Yes, the Rosenscheins were just here.”

“Great, I’ll cross them off our list.”

We leave a stash of mishloah manot at home to give to people who come to our door. It’s just the worst when you run out, or when someone you never planned for shows up and you’re not sure if you have enough to give to that person or not.

This year, the kids made a special effort to give to Ora, the Cat Lady. Ora lives not far from us and feeds all the stray felines in the neighborhood. She got one of our standard mishoah manot…plus a can of tuna. In return, each kid got a bag stuffed with more candy than I remember from a whole night of trick-or-treating.

It does get to be a bit much. Every year, I suggest we go for the minimum: two people in our building and that’s it. But the kids balk. And it’s tough: we get so many from other people, to not reciprocate would seem, well, rude.

When it’s all said and done, we count up the spoils. That’s where the pirates come in. We divide up all the different types of sweets received according to category. The kids take turns going round in a circle picking chocolates to put in their own goodie bag. The hamentaschen go into a communal pot, which is mostly raided by me before bed. And the pirates sail the sugary seas for weeks after the event itself.

While the holiday is about giving, it’s hard to overlook a kitchen table overflowing with a mind-numbing array of nutritionless calories. The list reads like an Eric Carle book. The very hungry caterpillar ate:

15 pretzels.

7 bottles of wine, grape juice or liquor.

5 oranges and 5 apples.

3 bags of popcorn.

39 chocolate bars, including 2 Corny’s, 1 Pesach Zman, 4 Kif Kef’s, 2 Perfects, and a Nestle’s Crunch from a family visiting from the U.S.

And another 24 bite-sized kosher for Pesach chocolates in a box with a butterfly lid (“let’s save them for Pesach,” Jody said. Her suggestion fell on an assortment of deaf and hungry ears).

4 packages of peanut butter Bamba snacks.

1 box of bittersweet chocolate almonds and another of chocolate-coated orange peels.

7 bags of tea (2 vanilla-strawberry, 2 green tea and 3 assorted Wissotsky herbals).

4 Mentos.

3 loose M&Ms (not in a box).

1 package of crackers.

5 large walnuts in their shells.

A baggie with raisins, apricots, fig, prunes and pecans.

26 Hamantaschen (not including the 5 I ate before we decided to count) 8 chocolate chip cookies and a homemade chocolate muffin.

2 coupons indicating that instead of candy, a donation had been made to a charitable organization.

11 lollypops.

A package of 25 fruit toffees.

And one lone strawberry.

Actually, we can’t complain too much. With all these riches, we should be well fed if we ever have to spend an extended period in a sealed room.

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