How I Connected Family History with Grandma’s Recipe

Do you feel your kids (or grandkids) don’t know much about your ancestry?
There’s something you can do about it.

As a genealogist, I find myself constantly immersed in the rich story of family history, weaving the threads of the past together to create a meaningful narrative for future generations. And so, when the opportunity arose to participate in an economic baking challenge in one of the groups I am a member of, it wasn’t the excitement of the competition or the satisfaction of possibly winning,  it was an opportunity to honor my grandmother’s memory and weave ties between the generations. 

But wait!
Let me first explain what this pastry I’m so excited about is. 
It’s called Hamantaschen.

Hamantaschen is a tasty pastry often enjoyed during the Jewish holiday of Purim.
The word “Hamantaschen” comes from the Yiddish language, where “Hamantaschen” means “Haman’s pockets” or “Haman’s ears.”

Now, let me explain the story behind it: Purim celebrates the story of Queen Esther, who saved the Jewish people from a plot to destroy them, as told in the biblical book of Esther. The villain in the story is Haman, who wore a three-cornered hat.

Hamantaschen pastries are shaped like triangles, resembling Haman’s hat or ears, and they are typically filled with sweet fillings like fruit preserves, chocolate, or poppy seed paste. People eat Hamantaschen during Purim as a delicious reminder of the victory of good over evil in the story of Esther.

SO, winning the challenge was delightful, but it was only the beginning of a deeper journey.
Look, it’s not just the end result that counts; it’s the stories we share along the way.

For me, these stories mean bathing in the aroma of my grandmother’s kitchen,
where every recipe carried with it a part of her heritage.

With this mindset, I turned to my youngest son and gave him the recipe book I made from the tattered recipe notebook inherited from his great-grandmother – the very same notebook that once lived in my grandmother’s kitchen drawer.
Together we set off on a journey through time, with the aim of breathing new life into grandma’s Hamantaschen recipe. The ones I haven’t tasted in over 20 years since she passed on.

As we deep-dived into the task, memories flooded me like a tide of nostalgia.
I could hear my grandmother’s voice, mumbling in Yiddish, as she cooked in her sizzling kitchen, and conveyed her wisdom and love with every stirring of a spoon.

The recipe called for margarine – a relic of a bygone era – and my son couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at the old staple. We laughed a lot, about the amounts of margarine that each recipe in her notebook called for, and we had to upgrade it for 2024.
We replaced the margarine with butter.
We smiled at each other, Grandma will understand. Right?

It was a reminder that traditions are not static – they change over time and reflect the changing tastes and preferences of each generation.

But our journey was not without challenges. In the absence of a rolling pin, we turned to alternative solutions. A large jar did the job to our satisfaction.
And once again we proved that when there’s a will, there’s always a way.

And when the recipe left us wondering about the oven temperature and baking times,
We embraced the spirit of trial and error and learned important lessons along the way.

Through laughter and memories, we turned a simple baking challenge into a meaningful celebration of family heritage.

As I bit into the exquisite freshness and warmth of the Hamantaschen we had prepared,
I couldn’t help but feel pride in honoring my grandmother’s legacy,

And, I won’t lie, the warmth might also have been due to the hot bay of tears rolling down my cheeks, getting stronger with each bite.

In the end, I won first place in the challenge, but happiness is not about winning.
Happiness is about the memories I was able to create, the lessons we learned along the way, and the connections we made.

The challenge is over, but our journey is far from over.
As we continue to celebrate our shared history and embrace the lessons of the past,
the legacy of our ancestors will live on in the hearts of future generations. 

And that, dear friends, is a victory worth celebrating.
I’m sharing with love the recipe for Grandma’s Hamantaschen



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