Before my mother-in-law stopped baking hamantaschen, she passed her recipe on to me, on three index cards covered with her loopy, barely legible handwriting. The recipe instructed me to brush the tops of the cookies with milk before baking, and then sprinkle them with sugar. But on the back of the last card, at the point where the cookies are out of the oven and already cooling on the rack, she’d added one last note: “I don’t bother sprinkling with milk and sugar—it doesn’t add anything.” This last sentence, informing me that what I had just done wasn’t really worth doing and didn’t meet with her satisfaction anyway, pretty neatly expresses the essence of our relationship.
I never made them while she was still alive because I could never have subjected myself to her comments after tasting one. But when the tins of hamantaschen stopped arriving from the Bronx at Purim, I knew the time had come to bake them myself. And I was determined to do even better than she had.