You’ve read the book, now eat the cookie

Hamantaschen

Bad guy / Good hat

Frankly, I don’t know why the movie has never been made. The story has all the hallmarks of a great action film. Not to mention that there’s strong woman at the core of the story who saves the day—a great role for a young(ish) actress. Even the advertising slogan practically writes itself: “Haman. Bad guy. Nice hat.”

What follows is my “treatment” of the story of Purim. Working title, “Book of Esther: the Whole Megilla.”

Please note the following: 1.) this means I can now say that I have a movie in development. 2.) Regrettably, none of the stars mentioned are actually attached to the project—yet. 3.) Also, some events have been condensed, changed, or otherwise fabricated to serve the story arch. (Hey, it’s a movie. I’m allowed a little cinematic license.)

We open at a vast banquet in the ancient Persian capital of Shushan. The action starts with the refusal of Vashti (Megan Fox), the wife of King Ahasuerus (Jude Law) to be seen in front of people—as the King has requested– without her veil. For her refusal she is banished. (Hopefully with a good pre-nup in tow.) The King decides to have a competition to find the new Queen. First, they will spend a year in his harem, all expenses paid, being groomed for the role.

Hadassah, (Anne Hathaway? Natalie Portman? Drew Barrymore?) a Jewish orphan raised by her cousin Mordechai (Mark Ruffalo), is helping a friend (not a starring role) prepare to compete for a chance to be in the King’s harem. While retrieving a piece of forgotten luggage from her friend’s cart, a gust of wind blows the contents of the luggage into the street. The task of retrieving the wind-blown clothes is made easier by the assistance of a handsome, yet intimidating stranger in a three-cornered hat (Leonardo diCaprio.) A protective Mordechai is suspicious of the handsome stranger’s attentions to Hadassah.

Cut to the group of harem-wannabes who have now finished competing. Hadassah stands off to the side, but notices that the people who are in charge of the competition are looking at her and nodding in agreement to something the stranger in the three-cornered hat has told them. Much to her surprise, they announce that Hadassah has been chosen for the harem. She glances at the handsome stranger in the three-cornered hat. He nods at her and smiles. (Please note: I created this “meet-cute” plot device. Hey, it’s a movie.)

Hadassah is reluctant, but Mordecai admonishes her to join the harem yet warns her to conceal her Jewish identity. She assumes the typically Persian name Esther, and enters the harem where the King chooses her as his new Queen.

Soon after, a now somewhat lonely Mordechai is drowning his sorrows at bar not far from the palace gates. He overhears two members of the King’s court planning to assassinate the King. Mordechai relays the information to Esther who tells the King. The plotters are caught and executed.

The King (now suffering from insomnia – no doubt brought on by all that stress) then names a new Prime Minister to his court: the stranger in the three-cornered hat enters and is introduced to the court: Haman. The court bows to the new man in charge.

The King orders a parade in Haman’s honor. As the procession makes its way around Shushan, everyone bows to Haman except Mordechai who insists that as a Jew he bows only to God. Haman is not pleased.

In the meantime the insomniac King is reading court documents in the middle of the night when he comes across records that indicate that Mordechai was the one responsible for uncovering the assassination plot against him. He asks Haman how he should honor a man who has been so loyal to the king. Thinking the king is referring to him, Haman replies that a full dress parade is in order.

When Haman finds out that the parade is for Mordechai he is enraged, and, egged on by Mrs. Haman (Keira Knightly?), makes a monetary deal with the sleep-deprived and unwitting King to kill all the Jews in Persia. He and his wife draw lots (“purim”) to decide the date of the massacre. On that date Persians will be free to kill Jews and steal their property. The Jews will not be allowed to defend themselves.

Mordechai begs Esther to talk to the King about this. Problem: if she tries to speak to the King without being summoned she could be put to death. In a courageous move, she seeks out the King who agrees to see her. She asks if she can have dinner with the King and Haman. The meal is arranged during which Haman’s evil plans are revealed and that Esther is Jewish, and therefore, one of his targets. The King orders Haman’s execution, but he escapes and leads the plot against the Jews, although now the Jews have the King’s permission to defend themselves. Our movie climaxes with Esther defeating Haman in a thrilling sword fight. (Outcome? Esther and the Jews 1, Haman and the bad guys 0. However, we reserve the right to be ambiguous about whether or not Haman meets his maker, leaving the door open for sequels.)

Thrilling, no? A total girl-power flick. And high-concept too. How great is it that we have a head start on the merchandising and tie-ins? For hundreds of years little children have been celebrating Purim by dressing as Queen Esther or Haman, and making loud noises whenever Haman’s name is mentioned. It should not come as a surprise that my favorite part of the celebration was always eating  Hamantaschen, the little pastry shaped to echo Haman’s three-cornered hat. Holiday-themed food seems to have always been my raison d’etre.

Growing up I always found Hamantaschen suspiciously close to Danish pastry; in fact there was one very cakey variety (that I haven’t seen since I was a kid) that would be perfect in the morning with a little coffee. Hamantaschen have traditionally been filled with jams, and prune, or poppy fillings—the latter was always my preference.

As an adult I question the absence of chocolate in this equation. Thousands of years of Purim celebrations and we’re still stuffing our faces with the equivalent of a prune Danish? This is something I must fix.

The result is the crunchy shortbread brim filled with a slightly chewy chocolate crown seen in the photo above. The filling isn’t terribly gooey, so your little Queen Esther won’t get her gown dirty. If you’re like me and believe chocolate goes with everything, these should make you happy.

By the way if you think my story treatment is too heavy, I have a lighter version that might make a good Disney animated musical. (Esther would be the first Jewish princess. Okay, the first Jewish Disney princess.)

Working title?  “I’ll Eat My Hat” Cute, huh?

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Click here for the recipe for Hamantaschen.

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

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