New Twists on Old Traditions

Purim Hamantaschen Gluten Free Elderberry Syrup Traditional Biscuit Recipe

Happy Purim to you! The sun has gone down and the festival can officially begin, but actually we have spent the afternoon frolicking in a celebration that my husband has declared is a Renegade Purim.

We held a “Purim Picnic Party” in a local park and took a huge basket of costumes, a suitcase full of instruments and rattles, and invited a bunch of kids to come and dress up and make noise with us. There are very few photos of the fun we had because we were having too much fun.

Purim New Traditions Cultural Experience Jewish Celebration Children Holiday Kids

I gather that this is a key purpose of the festival: making merry and having a great time. The other key purpose seems to be making and eating Hamantaschen, which are fruit-filled biscuits shaped to look like the ears of the villain of the Purim story.

And just as I went a bit left-of-centre with the mode of celebration, I also struggled to stick with the traditional recipes that were given to me for the biscuits. I ended up making two batches and started them off the same way; by using equal parts room-temperature butter and cream cheese, to create a lovely texture for the biscuit base.

Purim Hamantashen Gluten Free Traditional Jewish Cookie Biscuit Recipe

To one bowl I added plain flour and to the other I added dessicated coconut and LSA mix (which is made from Linseed, Soy and Almond meal). I combined them both well until I had a firm dough, which I put into the fridge for half an hour.

While the dough became stiff, I combined dates, sultanas, prunes and dried apricots with hot water on the stovetop until it was syrupy. This became the filling for my first batch of biscuits.

Purim Hamantash Gluten Free Elderberry Jam Traditional Cookie Biscuit Recipe

I decided to fill my gluten-free batch with the sticky jam that I made a few months ago with the elderberries from the tree in our backyard. I hadn’t strained the berries so it wasn’t suitable for cordial and it didn’t seem quite right for spreading on toast (it was a very simple recipe with just the berries, sugar and lemon, a bit like this).

Purim Hamantaschen Gluten Free Elderberry Jam Syrup Traditional Cookie Recipe

It turns out that it takes practice to take the step from elegant pastry rounds to excellent Hamantaschen triangles. I never really mastered it and then I ran out of time to get to our picnic. My attempts at gluten-free biscuits looked like puddles when I pulled them out of the oven, so I abandoned them on the stove stop and rushed out the door.

How incredible and wonderful, then, that two other attendees had gone to the trouble to make and bring their own, including another gluten-free version (seen at left in the picture below; the recipe sounds a bit like this one from Friendly Little Kitchen).

Mine are the ones at bottom right that are not triangles at all.

Purim New Traditions Cultural Jewish Hamantaschen Healthy Sugar Free Celebration Children Kids

We told noisy stories, held a noisy parade and played noisy games. Then nobody wanted to come home.

Purim Cultural Jewish Celebration Costume Tradition Cookie Biscuit Recipe

When I finally arrived back in the kitchen, I looked again at those gluten-free puddles and they had come good upon cooling. They were a little bit rustic, perhaps, but recognisable triangles (see the photo at the very top of this post).

And to be fair, all my Hamantaschen — of whatever shape — were actually really delicious.

So I think we were happy to be renegades with our celebration of Purim. Our festivities were a bit “unorthodox” to say the least, and our biscuits were non-traditional.

But this was a fantastic opportunity to connect with other families in our area, in a really fun way that held meaning for us.

Purim New Traditions Cultural Experience Jewish Celebration Children Many Cha Cha


ANZAC Day:  An Australian National Tradition

As a somewhat recent British colony which is fairly secular, Australia has come to view ANZAC Day as an almost sacred occasion on which to commemorate its citizens (and those of New Zealand) who have served and died in wartime.

It is not without controversy, and since it has outgrown its original purpose of memorialising the disastrous battle at Gallipoli during the First World War, it has become almost a mythology. The ANZAC story often forgets to include the indigenous Australians and immigrants who fought under the flag, and regularly ignores the role of women in conflict (at the front and at home). Those who question the myth are generally not tolerated, as this eloquent satirical cartoon by First Dog on The Moon illustrates. 

I am not without reservation when it comes to thinking about how the ANZAC legend has shaped the way that Australia, as a nation, sees itself. However, I think it is still possible to observe ANZAC Day traditions in a respectful way and to quietly reflect upon the realities of war and how it affects individuals, families and communities.

Thus, we have begun a tradition of attending a local march and ceremony (last year it was a particularly lovely one in Hobart). The children and I took a walk around the nearby cenotaph and talked about what it means to remember the soldiers, and together we made ANZAC biscuits to mark the solemn occasion.

In the absence of grand religious rituals or observed cultural customs, I think it’s worthwhile to observe Australia’s national day of remembrance, whilst also ignoring the hoopla that has developed around it and making a concerted effort to remain inclusive.

I also believe that “Lest We Forget” has lot more meaning and depth than it is often given credit for, and is a phrase that deserves a lot of thought.

Here and There

Iraq could easily become a sort of “concept” in our minds, a war-torn wreck that only exists on the news. But Iraq is a real place where people, including women like me with families, are going about their lives right now.

Iraq Iraqi Woman Elizabeth Ashburn Painting Art

I have long been fascinated by the idea that life goes on in other places, even though I’m not there to observe it. I think it began when my childhood best friend and I were told that we would not attend the same schools. We were both very sad at first, and that’s when I regularly began to think about and try to visualise what was happening elsewhere. My friend is at school, doing whatever he is doing, and I am here at the same time.

It was simultaneously comforting and weird. A discovery that time and space exist outside of me and my immediate experience.

So what is happening in places far away from me now? Can I imagine what is happening somewhere very distant, and far outside my experience, like Iraq?

Iraq Iraqui Food Broad Beans Rice Timan Bagalah

The artwork at the top, Iraqi Woman by Elizabeth Ashburn, which I encountered at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery the other day, illustrates both a cultural context and daily reality for a woman in Iraq. I tried to create a small Iraqi experience by making the broad bean dish pictured above (called Timan Bagalah) which is apparently a daily staple in Baghdad and which was very popular in my house. And I made some biscuits based on Hadgi Badah (or Haji Badah), with cardamom and rose to try and capture a pleasant side of Iraq; these were devoured by my sweet-loving fellers.

It was all just a reminder: Iraq is far away but it is happening now.

Iraq Biscuits Cookies Haji Hadgi Badah Cardamom Rose