On March 20th it was Purim for my friends Brandon Bordonado, an interesting New York mix of Puerto Rican and Jewish, and Kacey Herlihy, a more typical New York mix of Irish and Jewish. They tell me about their earliest experiences with Purim while in Hebrew school during this “Jewish Halloween.” ” We dressed up, there were carnival games, like a basketball hoop, tickets, prizes and free coffee and cookies (like) rugelach and hamantaschen,” said Herlihy with a childish timbre in her voice.
Hamantaschen is a cookie that comes in an array of flavors. “Apricot is the creme-de-la-creme. It’s what every kid wants when he goes digging into the cookie jar,” said Bordonado. Raspberry is the next best thing, but the least desirable is Blackberry he tells me in his heavy Queens accent that Cuomo talks about in this New York Times article.
Brandon is so enthusiastic about the falafels, about the stuffed cabbage, and about his mother’s cheese salad and I wonder where my excitement is. All around me I have been ignoring the signs of celebration in Colombia. I’ve got cheese from Barranquilla in my fridge that comes in huge blocks that weigh 1o, sometimes 20, pounds each. Colombian candy sits beneath it in the shelf below and I ignore it to reach for the peanut butter. I hear the words “carnavales,”“aguardiente,” and “semana santa,” but don’t realize I haven’t been home to celebrate with my grandmothers over the phone and thank them for the handmade “bollos de yuca”. All I had to do was open the fridge and look to see their was a celebration going on.
I try and remember when Ivonne, my parents oldest friend, still lived in their Jersey house they never owned. Our families, and other friends, used to get together there and eat seafood rice for dinner on Saturdays, but the economy has stripped us of our happiness. Others in our family of friends have endured real life challenges of unemployment and coming out of the closet. We have lost our joy during these hard times and don’t even get together during moments like these to celebrate life for a while. I didn’t realize how important food was to keep my family together, but without sharing rice or homemade food, we just don’t seem to see one another.