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A Real Purim Story: How Hamantaschen Cookies Got Their Name

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A Real Purim Story: How Hamantaschen Cookies Got Their Name

Many Jewish people have been getting ready for Purim — by baking hamantaschen cookies, triangular treats made of dough with poppy seeds or fruit jam in the middle.

Asked what the dessert signifies, many celebrants would quickly answer that they’re in the shape of the triangular hat supposedly worn by Haman, the villain of the Purim story in the Book of Esther. But there’s more history than that to the cookie — and clues can be found in its name.

Early versions of the cookies were more commonly known as oznei Haman, meaning “Haman’s ears.” The late Jewish food historian Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food traces that phrase — but not the cookie — to the Roman scholar and poet Immanuel ben Solomon (c.1261-1328) who, thanks to “a misinterpretation arising from the medieval Italian custom of cutting off a criminal’s ear before execution,” argued that Haman’s ears had been cut off after he was hanged, at the end of the Purim story.

 

By Olivia B. Waxman – Time.com