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25 February 2013

If guns were but invented now, this Haman I would shoot, sir!

Happy Purim, everyone! (Okay, it was yesterday, but whatever.)

Purim is one of my favorite holidays; it's the Jewish celebration of the story of Esther (which I encourage you to read if you haven't, it's a fantastic story with a royal divorce, a beauty pageant, both comical comeuppance and tragic comeuppance (both of the same guy), a fifty-foot-tall gallows, a plot to kill all the Jews, a brave young woman saving her people, and a king who despite being kind of a jerk still is willing to grant his wife any request, even unto half his kingdom), and it also has some truly delicious cookies associated with it: hamantaschen. Hamantaschen are triangle-shaped cookies filled with thick, jammy goodness, some of the most traditional flavors being prune, apricot, and poppyseed. They look like this:


Here are the ones I made (hanging out with our Hulk):


While tracking down a new recipe for prune filling this year (it's DELICIOUS), I discovered this story about the origins of prune as a traditional hamantaschen filling: "David Brandeis, a plum preserve merchant, was acquitted after being charged with poisoning some plum preserves. He was released from prison just before Purim. In order to celebrate his freedom, the townspeople of Jungbunzlau in northeastern Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) filled the hamantaschen with povidl, plum preserves, and referred to the holiday as Povidl Purim."

I wanted to know more, and after some googling, was able to track down this fuller account in The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, published 1907.

Purim Povidl (Plum Jam Purim): Instituted by David Brandeis of Jung-Bunzlau, Bohemia, in 1731, to be celebrated annually by all the members of his family on the 10th of Adar in commemoration of his deliverance from a calamity that was brought upon him by slanderers. Brandeis kept a grocery store at Jung-Bunzlau. On the 4th of Shevat a Christian girl, the daughter of a bookbinder, purchased from Brandeis some "povidl" (="plum jam"), after partaking of which the members of the bookbinder's family became ill, and the bookbinder himself died within a few days. The burgomaster of the city, being informed of the matter, ordered the store to be closed and David Brandeis, his wife, and son to be imprisoned on the charge of selling poisonous food to Christians. After a careful investigation by the municipal authorities and later by the court of appeal at Prague also, it was found that the bookbinder's death had been due to consumption, whereupon the prosecution was dropped. Brandeis recorded the event in a Hebrew scroll which he called "Shir ha-Ma'alot le-Dawid," making it obligatory upon all his descendants "to read this scroll every year on the 10th of Adar and to make that day a day of rejoicing and gladness." The festival was still observed by the descendants of David in the nineteenth century. 
Depressing yet weirdly uplifting. People keep trying to bring us down but we keep going! We will take our suffering and transform it into delicious cookies!

Happy Purim.

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18 February 2013

Romantic Farewells

Happy Valentine's Day weekend! Whether you enjoy the whirlwind of chocolate and champagne or find the holiday too commercialized, I hope you had/are having a great weekend (it's a three-day weekend in the states). My daughter and I enjoyed wearing red and having the excuse for presents :-).

I've running a favorite literary romantic moments contest on my website and one comment reminded me of a particular category of romantic moments that can be especially poignant and powerful. Farewells. Whether it's the end of a love affair or a moment of separation on the road to a happy ending, farewells can bring out confessions of emotions that are suppressed in less tumultuous times. In Imperial Scandal, I loved writing the farewells between the various couples at the Duchess of Richmond's ball before the battle of Waterloo. It was a bit of challenge to write so many different goodbye scenes, but I also found it was a great way to differentiate how each couple's relationship was unique.

Here are some of my favorite farewells from books and movies.

Damerel telling Venetia she could should go off to London and that their romance was nothing but a light flirtation in Georgette Heyer's Venetia. Heartbreaking, because you know he's doing it to be noble and finds it as hard to part from her as she does to part from him.

James writing what may be his last letter to Susan in Steven Brust & Emma Bull's wonderful epistolary novel Freedom & Necessity. James is driven by causes bigger than himself, so it's a powerful moment when in the midst of crisis he tells Susan just how much she means to him.

Sarah and Guy saying farewell at the train station in Jewel in the Crown/The Raj Quartet (both in the book and the television series).

A Pride and Prejudice scene that occurs only in the Garson/Olivier movie. Darcy comes to see Elizabeth after the news of Lydia's elopement. He leaves to go look for Wickham and Lydia. He turns back at the door and says this is perhaps the last time they will ever meet and adds "God bless you, Elizabeth" (echoing the closing of Darcy's letter in the book). Elizabeth looks round, wanting to stop him, too late. Leslie and I have talked on the blog about what a wonderful heart-tug this moment is.

Rick putting Ilsa on the plane in Casablanca. Need I say more?

What are some of your favorite romantic farewells in books or movies? Writers, are these scenes you enjoying writing?






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04 February 2013

If you can't see the posts ...

I sincerely apologize. There seems to be a compatibility issue between the blog and Internet Explorer suddenly (all other browsers show the blog posts just fine). I’ve reported the problem to Blogger, but there isn’t anything we here at History Hoydens can do to fix it.

So, if you can use Firefox or Safari or Chrome, please do.

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