Great Aunt Georgie Husney and I had never met. I married into the family a little over a year after her passing, following her battle with cancer. Irving, her Syrian widowed husband, and I connected over Middle Eastern food, our love of the Arabic language and the camaraderie that comes from finding a kindred spirit when feeling isolated from your culture. However, it was not too long before he was gone as well and the family was left bereft.
And me? I was left with stories of their robust and sumptuous meals, of holiday traditions, of love and connection, just as I was trying to build my own family and traditions. As holidays came and went, memories were shared of Georgies brownies, her Passover popovers and her Purim Hamantaschens. Her feats in the kitchen were revered and legendary. My own mother in law set the Georgie bar - every traditional recipe I made was compared to how Georgie made it… and yes, believe it or not, she quite often found mine lacking… Nowhere was it more apparent than in my Hamantaschen recipe!
Growing up in Israel, our Hamantaschens, or Ozney Haman, as they are called there, have kind of a cookie, shortbread texture, which kept disappointing my mother in law. She would shake her head at me: “These are nice, but not tender like Georgie’s…” So, after years of attempting to achieve that golden moment of memory retrieval with a variety of attempts , I finally secured the original recipe in Georgie’s own handwriting!
The secret was revealed: sour cream and some leavening agents - which my own recipe does not include! I dove into making these, feeling both Georgie’s and Irving’s presence in my kitchen as I rolled out this soft and pliable dough. My husband took a bite (or more…) and claimed that these Hamantaschens are what he remembers Georgie’s were like. I dropped off a plate of these for her daughter, Susan who then sent me a text saying Georgie “would be so proud of you”.
But my real critic? She’s in Florida and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Hamantaschen I had shipped her. Even if she shoots down this latest attempt of mine, I take comfort in sharing my kitchen with Georgie and Irving. They may have been gone for the past 30 years or so, but their lives and legacy are sure vibrant in our minds when we step into their shoes and share kitchen space in their memory.
Recipe Note: I added lemon zest to Georgie’s dough and some cinnamon to her filling. Just needed a little more flavor oomph!