Why Do People Give Food Gifts on Purim?

Food gifts are the best gifts!

As someone who’s perpetually hungry, I’ve always loved the custom of giving food gifts on Purim. The practice is called mishloach manot, and it’s actually not a custom, but a mitzvah (Jewish commandment). It comes from the Book of Esther, when Esther states that Purim should be “a day of gladness and feasting, a holiday, and of sending portions to one another.” 

The basic rules are that each person must send at least two items of food or drink to at least one other person. In the last fifty years, this modest ask has ballooned. Nowadays, people send extravagant food packages to multiple friends, because we’re Jews and we love feeding people. 

Please remember that Purim is meant to be a FUN holiday, so if you’re busy or more of an eater than a chef, opt for the easy route with store-bought treats. If, however, you’re like me and can’t resist the opportunity to whip up individually portioned homemade treats wrapped up with a pretty bow, this is your chance to go wild. 

An easy way to streamline your ideas is to pick a theme. I love Busy in Brooklyn‘s deviled eggs with a bottle of hot sauce:

Another easy concept is a cheeseboard. A mini bottle of wine, a punnet of grapes, a couple of cheeses (I’d go for a hard and a soft), and bread — this cheesy pull-apart garlic bread babka is always a winner (and it’s easier to make than you’d expect). 

Or, go Israeli style, with a jar of tahini, Indian-Iraqi pickled mango sauce, amba (this recipe makes three pints, so they’ll be plenty leftover for you), and a selection of easy to whip up (thanks to store-bought puff pastry) bourekas. I love these spinach-feta bourekas with an everything bagel topping or gooey pizza bourekas

If you’re part of a community where giving mishloach manot is common, consider gifting items with a longer shelf life, so the recipients don’t need to eat them in a hurry. You could make your own pickles — like turshi, Persian pink pickled turnips, or gift a Mason jar full of homemade sauerkraut. Get the kids involved with making this easy, yet gorgeous, chocolate bark with pumpkin seeds, strawberries, and citrus or this tahini and olive oil granola, which keeps for a few weeks. 

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