Growing up, Purim was a big deal at our house. Besides the annual Purim party, complete with homemade costumes, a tradition that started long before I was born, my mom and I would make loads of hamantashen and other sweets, which we would then pack into misloach manot (traditional Purim gift baskets of food and drinks) for friends.
While I still make hamantashen every year, including getting really creative (think lemon curd and halva fillings and candy-studded dough), these days, the extent of my mishloach manot involves throwing a handful of hamantashen into a box or cellophane bag and bringing them to my in-laws’.
That got me thinking: Maybe it’s time to give misloach manot another try—but this time with a more current twist.
Here’s what I have in mind:
Less Sugar: I have a sweet tooth. But in the past few years, I’ve successfully reined my sugar habit in, baking less, tinkering with the amounts or types of sugar and pacing myself more. Thinking back on the Purim gift baskets of my youth, though—man, those things were sugar bombs, made up mostly of a variety of cookies of different shapes and flavors.
But nothing says mishloach manot have to be purely sweet. In fact, I’m thinking that a handful of hamantashen would be right at home with salty snacks like popcorn or spiced nuts; a small jar of pickles, olives or preserved lemons; or a bottle of hot sauce or a little container of spices. Instead of more cookies, blend dried fruits and nuts together (along with other additions) to make energy balls that are free of refined sugar (look online for endless options). And don’t even get me started on savory hamantashen…
Something Fresh: Sure, fresh things aren’t usually as easily packed and transported as, well, packaged things, but there’s no reason a Purim basket can’t offer a refreshing zing. I’d love to see a bottle of local kombucha or beer/cider, some tea bags (or a homemade blend of dried herbs) or even a small potted herb plant make their way into misloach manot. Fruits are nice, too, but I’d opt for something beyond the tired Granny Smith apple or orange.
Greener Packaging: I’ll admit, I love a big cellophane-wrapped gift basket, but as I try to reduce single-use plastic in my life, misloach manot aren’t making the cut. This year I’ll be looking for options that are more environmentally friendly, such as simple paper bags, bamboo or other biodegradable trays or plates (rather than disposable plastic ones) and boxes, baskets or bowls/mugs that I am confident my recipients will be able to reuse. (Tip: For affordable ceramic pieces, stop by discount or kitchen-supply stores.)
Quality, Not Quantity: As a suburban child, my mom and I would drive around delivering our baskets to friends. As an urban millennial adult, I have neither time nor a convenient way to shuttle around food packages, so Judith’s cookie swap really speaks to me. It’s a great way to get friends together and actually catch up, rather than just drop off gift baskets on someone’s front porch.
Another idea I’ll consider comes from one of my favorite Israeli food bloggers, Natalie Levin Sapir of Lil’ Cookie, who hosts a “white elephant”-style mishloach manot swap every year in a park in northern Tel Aviv. She asks each person to bring one—just one—really great gift basket containing an abundance of delicious treats (homemade and/or store bought). Then, attendees draw numbers and swap, and each person goes home with an impressive basket brought by someone else.