| Musings |

Shalach Manos Contest

I began working on Rosh Chodesh Adar. Not a moment too soon


few years ago, the Kichels had a Venn diagram showing that shalach manos could have only two of three components — affordable, elegant, or simple. You gotta choose your priorities ‘cuz you can’t have it all.

This year, I was out to prove them wrong. I was going to get all three.

I always make cinnamon buns or rugelach for shalach manos. They’re elegant, and I’ve convinced myself that they’re not too big a patchke either. One year, I even had a whole shitah about how it made me a better mother. I was up late baking in my kitchen and therefore more available to schmooze with my teens.

But somehow, this year, the thought of taking out my Bosch four nights in a row was not enticing. Lucky for me, I thought about this early enough to find pretty but affordable boxes. They have been waiting patiently in my basement for the past few months.

Our current Shabbos dessert is peanut chews, and this, I realized, would make the perfect shalach manos treat. They would fit in my container, they can be elegant (sheesh, the store-bought ones cost upward of $20!), and they are simple enough to make. I’ve been sharing my great idea with every sister and sister-in-law since; I must sound like a broken record.

I began working on Rosh Chodesh Adar. Not a moment too soon. Of course, I forgot to calculate time for mishaps. I mean, what mishaps can happen with peanut chews? They don’t even go in the oven!

But cutting them evenly turned out to be more challenging than I thought, especially when you consider that I had 60-plus pretty boxes waiting to be filled. And transferring them from the baking sheet to the box without smudging the chocolate or the container proved above my paygrade.

On to plan B.

Another look at the containers, and inspiration struck. They are the perfect size for a few biscotti lined up in a row. And if each biscotti sported a different topping, the elegant element is satisfied as well. Elegant, affordable, simple. I’m still winning.

The next night, I baked three batches of biscotti, iced and topped them, and transferred them to my containers. I’m on to something good. One more night of baking, and I can cross shalach manos off my to-do list.

Wednesday found me buying more confectioners’ sugar and topping, and Wednesday night I baked the remaining three batches. But somehow, these spread so much that they no longer fit into the container. I went to sleep dreaming of cinnamon buns, peanut chews, and cellophane. How would I solve this?

Another trip to the store, and the solution was found. Rather than package the biscotti in a container, a perfectly-sized cellophane bag could also do the trick. Bags and ribbons in hand (becasue of course, now I need ribbon for the cellophane), I trekked home to get to work. I iced the biscotti and sprinkled them with toppings. Then I tasted one. (I usually taste as I go along, but I’m on a diet, which by some miracle, I’m actually sticking to.) One bite was enough to convince me something was wrong. The texture was off, and so was the taste. It took but a moment for me to realize that I’d used baking soda instead of baking powder. No wonder they had spread so much. I tried to convince myself that I could still send them, but my daughters would not hear of it.

So I emptied the baking trays and started again. Hey, at least I should be able to use my containers again. But it’s back to the store for me. Shopping list: confectioners’ sugar and toppings.

The verdict is in. Elegant? Well, my teens are letting me send it, so it’s elegant enough for me. Affordable? Not really, not if you count all the wasted ingredients and extra toppings in the garbage can, or the overpriced chocolate bar taped awkwardly at the top. Simple? No, no, and no. Just no!

You gotta hand it to the Kichels; they really know their shalach manos. If they know Pesach clothing half as well, I’m doomed.

Kichels, please help me shop for Pesach clothing!


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 886)

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