The Jew And The Carrot

Buon Appetito: Celebrate Purim With Italian Sweets

By Alessandra Rovati

  • Print
  • Share Share
Alessandra Rovati

Now commonly seen – at least in America and Europe — as a sweet and innocent event for the enjoyment of children, in the past Purim was once quite different. For the Jews of 16th and 17th century Italy, the holiday was a quite an extravagant affair, celebrated (in the wealthier homes) with close to 30 course dinners accompanied with profuse quantities of wine. Dinner guests donned costumes and masks, inspiring the modern tradition of children playing dress up for the holiday. Several historians cite the celebrations of Carnival, the days up to lent which take place around the same time as Purim, as inspiration for these fests of gluttony.

Wearing costumes and masks while intoxicated was obviously bound to encourage all kinds of inappropriate behaviors, from promiscuous contact with non-Jews to episodes of violence. Still, some prominent rabbis of the time viewed all the wine and merrymaking as central to the spirit of the holiday, and went as far as to allow normally “taboo” activities, even mixed dancing.

But the most memorable and wide-spread excesses were always at the table: several Italian Purim songs from the time describee the lucullan menus and the lavish wine lists in the wealthier homes. The festive meal could last hours with the many courses alternating between sweet and savory dishes, often accompanied by theatrical performances. At the end of the banquet, the highlight of the “Carnival of the Jews” (as it was often called) was always dessert, with dozens of different sweets, from iced sponge cakes to pastries to almond-based bon-bons.

The culinary symbol of the holiday, however, was one specific type of treat, called “Orecchie di Aman” (Haman’s Ears). The name is now also used in certain Italian communities to described hamantaschen, but traditionally it referred to thin rectangles of dough, “pinched” or folded at the top to resemble a pointy animal ear, or curled up in a more human ear shape. The scrumptious dough is fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sugar. What tastier proof of the link between Purim and Carnival than the similarity between this recipe and the Carnival “frappe’ (or “crostoli” depending on the region)? But the shape of the Jewish version of this fried pastry takes us back to the sinister symbolism of the holiday: as a descendant of Amalek, Haman represents ultimate evil in the Jewish tradition, and there is a commandment to blot out his memory. The practice of eating the evil minister’s virtual ears satisfies this in a delectable way.

Buon Purim, and Buon Appetito….

Orecchie di Aman

¼ cup sugar
2 ¾ cups flour
a pinch of salt
2 eggs
4 tablespoons grappa, rum or marsala
3 tablespoons milk (or rice milk or orange juice for a parve version)
¼ cup butter (or 3 tablespoons very mild olive oil or seed oil for parve)
mild olive oil or seed oil for frying
confectioner’s sugar to decorate

1) Sift the flour with salt and form a well on your working surface.

2) Add the softened butter, the eggs, the sugar and the liqueur. Knead well with your hands until smooth and elastic. If it’s not soft enough, add little milk or juice; if it’s too soft, add a little flour. Allow to rest covered for 15 minutes.

3) Roll very thin with a rolling pin (you can also use a pasta machine to make sheets of dough). With a sharp knife, cut into rectangles about 3”x5”, and pinch the two top corners together to give them the shape of a pointy animal ear. You can also simply cut the dough into tall triangles with slightly curved sides, like a donkey’s ear, or make thinner stripes (about 1” x 5”) and twirl them slightly to shape into a more human-looking ear.

4) Heat abundant oil in a large pan with tall sides, and wait until when a small piece of bread dropped into the oil begins to sizzle.

5) Fry the “orecchie” in several batches, few at a time, until light gold, approximately 1-2 minutes.

6) Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on triple layers of paper towel. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve accompanied by a sparkling white wine.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Purim, Orrechie di Aman, Italian Purim Recipes

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.