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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Know-Ent, No-ent or just Noent

As you may or may not know, the Ents are Tree Creatures from Lord Of The Rings, where TreeBeard and the Hobbits had some interesting adventures during the Third Age of Middle Earth.

So the name of this dish is actually Noent - but I like to think of it as Know-Ent (because it is sweet and wonderful and full of laughter as the Ents were.)

Today begins the Hebrew month of Adar. In Adar the holiday of Purim falls out. From Purim to Passover is exactly one month - 28 days. The month of Adar has a particular statement associated with it:

"Mi'Shnechnes Adar Marbim Bi'Simcha"

"When Adar Enters We Spend The Month In Joy & Happiness"

Purim falls on the 13th, 14th and 15th of Adar and is a holiday where we celebrate being saved from the dastardly plans of Haman who wanted to destroy, kill and wipe out all the Jews in Ancient Persia. Haman's plan was revealed to King Achsheverush by Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai, along with the King's helper, Harvonah. The story is in the Old Testament in the book of Esther if you are interested.

On Purim we do a few things. The Book of Esther is read in synagogue to much joyous laughter (after it is read) and song. We celebrate being saved from Haman and his plans. We also are commanded based upon the last chapter in Esther to give charity to the poor on this day and to send packages of food to all our friends. Finally we have a festive meal, called in Hebrew a Seudah, where we eat and DRINK. Oh boy do we drink. A whole nation gets plastered on this day - as we are commanded to reach the stage where we no longer can tell the difference between the righteous Mordechai and the evil Haman. A state of "ad de'lo yadah" - "until one does not know".

Strange customs, I agree. And since I do not drink alcohol usually you can imagine my head on Purim when I drink a few glasses of wine or whiskey! And oh boy, can I tell you stories of Teddy getting drunk on Purim!

But Purim for me is also very nostalgic. Indeed way back at the beginning of this blog, Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen, I posted a chapter from the Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen work-in-progress-book, Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen, entitled: How I Discovered The Kitchen (Part Two). In it I mention Noent.
Not a Purim goes by when I do not remind my children and my sister of my mother’s ‘Noent’, (I have no clue where the name comes from.) It was a mixture of baked honey and walnuts, and was sticky and delicious. Last year when we went to a hotel for Passover, there was a gigantic sculpture of ‘Noent’ for the arriving guests to nibble on before the traditional Seder. I tasted a bit, declared that Mom’s was better, and basked for a moment in my normal atmospheric ponderings, remembering years gone by. Of course, I told my children about Grandma’s ‘Noent’. And of course, they heard me out and said:

“Abba, that is the hundredth time we heard all about Grandma’s ‘Noent’.

You are probably familiar with the "lets make our parents look senile" scene. Don’t you just love it when they roll their eyes and give each other the knowing look that says:

“Our father has to be locked up. He is too embarrassing to take out for his daily walk anymore.”
I can tell you why this simple dish actually makes me almost cry every Purim when I think of Mom making it. Mom had bad arthritis in her hands. She did not cook a great deal, but what she did make she made with love. And every single Purim, Mom would go into that kitchen and take the Walnuts and honey and work her magic into that Noent.

Noent is a candy actually. But it is eaten on Purim and Passover. It is made on Purim because as most Jewish Holidays, Purim revolves around the children. They dress up (much like Haloween) wear costumes and gorge on every candy in the world. It is also eaten on the Eve of Passover, when we can no longer eat bread and are waiting to eat at the Seder that evening.

Noent, (also sometimes called "Ashkenazi Nut Candy" though for this title I have no clue why cause it is not just made by Jews of Ashkenazi descent) as far as I can tell is not well known anymore. The commercial brand and the stuff the hotels make for incoming guests is filled with sugar - for which there is no need. So here is the simple recipe for Noent - and if you do make it, remember, this is one of those dishes that the more love that goes into it, the better it tastes.

I dedicate this recipe to my Mother who was one incredible woman.
May her soul be bound up in the
bond of everlasting life.

Requirements:
  1. One large flat pan or oven tray coated with aluminum
  2. One pot
Ingredients:
  1. Walnuts - 1- 2 pounds (One can use pecans here or almonds or hazelnuts. I use Walnuts cause that is how Mom made it!
  2. Oil for greasing the pan
  3. Honey - At least 1 pound - but here the more the merrier. Honey is honey is honey.
  4. 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice for every pound of Honey. (Not required but a good idea)
  5. One-quarter cup of sugar. If you absolutely need it! I don't use sugar at all. Don't think there is a need - but some people claim it gives better consistency in the baking process.
Directions:
  1. Nothing could be simpler. Very lightly grease the pan or aluminum foil with either Mazola or something equivalent.
  2. Mix the honey and lemon juice and if you are using it, sugar, in the pot. Make sure it is consistent and the lemon juice and sugar are totally mixed in.
  3. Put the pot on a medium flame and stir constantly for around 5-8 minutes. NO LONGER. Just make sure the honey is hot. Be careful of your hands. Hot honey splatter hurts like hell! Take it from someone with first hand experience. (Go ahead laugh - pfftttttt!)
  4. Now add the nuts into the pot. Slowly. Keep on stirring for around 20-30 minutes. Keep the pot hot and the honey hot.
  5. Take the pot and now pour it out as evenly as possible into the pan. Let it settle.
  6. Put the pan into a preheated oven at 300 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Take the pan out of the oven and let it cool down for at least 1 hour.
  8. Now you can cut it into pieces or just put the whole pan into the fridge.
  9. In around six hours you will have delicious Noent. (And keep your fingers out of the batter while it is cooling down - that is CHEATING! And besides my kids always see the trail of my finger in the hardened honey!)
And may we all have a year full of sweetness and joy and know no more sorrow. May all the readers of Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen, whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever race, religion or background you have, be blessed with Joy, Happiness and the sweet melting of honey upon the canopy of your lives.

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Enjoy!
"When Adar Enters We Spend The Month In Joy & Happiness"

4 Fire Comments - Click To Post A Comment:

Deborah Dowd said...

Even though my husband is a pre-diabetic, this recipe is tempting, but what I enjoy most is hearing the story of your traditions, your faith and how they are woven into your life and into those of your children.

The powerful nature of food-related memories is one of the reasons I started my blog. In today's world, I am afraid many families(no matter their composition) are missing this chance to build common memories. And it is especially good to hear that eye-rolling (and parent's reaction to it) is universal across cultures and faiths. We are so lucky that our children humor us!

Deborah Dowd

P.S. I am hoping you saw my tag for you to share 5 things about yourself and will soon be posting.

Ted W. Gross said...

And here I was hoping you forgot all about that tag-Teddy thing! :)

Don't know about soon, but one day I will be posting...

And yes you are right...like I always say..it is not about the food but about the memories...

Even if my kids do tell everyone they meet: "Him? No way he is our father. He just hangs around the family. We have no clue who that nut is!"

Sarah said...

I hope you don't mind, but I wanted to let you know about my new ebook called "Purim Made Easy: Everything You Need to For A Fun Holiday." It's a great guide to having a fun & stress-free holiday (As you know Purim a lot of a fun, but also requires some planning so you can enjoy the day!)

With the book you get:

* Instructions for over 70 simple, no-sew costumes you can make with things from around the house
* Last Minute Costume Ideas
* A 6-Page Report on Easy Ideas to Make Your Shaloch Manot Spectacular!
* A Persian-Themed Seudah Plan with recipes & pre-made shopping list
* Our Exclusive Stained-Glass Hamentashen Recipe

You can go to http://www.EasyPurimGuide.com for more details.

Deborah Dowd said...

Teddy,
You should know that elephants (and parents) never forget. Just respond when you feel inspired (what a great chance to subject your children to even more humiliation!)

Deborah