Getting Creative with Purim Food Baskets (Mishloach Manot)
Distributing baskets of food to your friends and family is one of the customs of the Jewish holiday of Purim. The tradition, which started as way to ensure that every family had enough food for their Purim feast, is today a way to increase the feeling of community and friendship during this convivial holiday.
Called Mishloach Manot, which means "sending portions" in Hebrew, the basket is supposed to contain at least two different ready-to-eat food items. You should not send unprepared food, unless it is part of a larger gift that includes at least the two proscribed ready-to-eat foods.
The standard gift basket on Purim contains a small bottle of grape juice, some candies, a handful of dried fruits and nuts and hamantashen. The traditional Purim pastry, a hamantashen (or Oznei Haman, as it is called in Hebrew) is a three cornered cookie stuffed with poppy seed or jam.
Given that Purim is known as Judaism's most fun holiday, there's really no reason to get stuck in a boring hamantashen rut for your Mishloach Manot. Sure the cookie is Purim's traditional food, but it does not have to be the definitive choice for your Purim baskets.
This article will offer up some fresh and even gourmet alternatives to the staid old Mishloach Manot. Read on for tips about making your Purim baskets as hip and fun as you are! (Don't worry, even if you are thinking, "But I'm neither hip nor fun," your basket can still be creative!)
Think outside the box
You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can usually judge a mishloach manot by its basket. Ditch the regifted, personality-less basket and instead think about a fun gift bag, a ceramic planter, even a Chinese take-out container.
One year, a friend sent packages of Goldfish crackers and Swedish fish candies in a mini fish bowl! Now that's definitely thinking outside the box!
Package up two or more food items that go together to form a fun theme. Try an Italian Feast basket. Include fresh ravioli, Roma tomatoes, a shaving of fresh Parmesan and a basil plant -- packaged up in a cute wicker picnic basket.
What about a movie night basket? In a giant movie theatre popcorn tub, you can throw in some home-popped popcorn, a box of Junior Mints and 2 glass bottles of cokes. Or a High Tea basket? Include some homemade scones, a box of fancy teas, sugar cubes and a spot of milk.
Consider your audience
Sure, kids are happy to get candy bar after candy bar in their Purim basket, but adults may want something a bit more adventuresome. And if they are parents, those adults may prefer some more wholesome options for their sugared-up children as well.
How about a family-friendly basket with a thermos of homemade tomato soup and a package of Saltine crackers for mom and dad, plus some Oatmeal raisin cookies and a milk box for each child.
Even without spending your monthly food budget on your Mishlaoch Manot, you can still include quality food - even gourmet offerings - especially if you do all or most of the cooking yourself.
Bake some pita chips with virgin olive oil and sea salt, whip up some humus and send it all along with spicy pickles or Calamati olives. Prep a light meal of mini spinach and mushroom quiches, packaged together with a baguette of French bread.
The sky is the limit on your mishloach manot. If you see your Purim basket as a reflection of your unique style and personality, there is no way it will be dull!
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