This year was my first Purim spent in Albany, I happen to switch around depending on where I am invited to and who will have the best food. Last year spent at my Fiancés house in Monsey, and years prior to that in Rochester. Back in the day we used to spend all of our Purims in Monsey, sitting through the festive and drunken frummy meals, combined with the drunken yeshiva guys who go collecting and pop in at random times. I always noticed that frummies make the most lavish shallach manos. They make baskets with tissue paper and colored plastics filled with all sorts of the best in Jew-candy from leibers, hadar and paskez.
Our family always had the most ghetto shallach manos. We would throw some cake or cookies in a plastic bag with a small bottle of kedem grape juice that was probably taken out of one of the other ones we received. I remember my father going into panic mode, when someone would show up at our door, with a lavish basket of stuff, and he didn’t even make one for them in the first place. He would tell me to stall and look through al the other shallach manos to try and find a quick fix. My brother and I of course had the stack of stuff we didn’t want to give away and the stuff we hated. I do remember the Israeli wafers quite fondly- and until I got to Israel for real- always thought they were a treat. In Israel I realized that they were like 8 for a shekel.
Monsey was always awkward for my family. We were always the modern ones, the kids who grew up with TV and coed day schools, so we always felt out of place, my father of course could shoot the shit with anyone, but the kids were left alone to fend for themselves with all the costumed up kids. We never really dressed up, in fact this year is the first time I “dressed” up in all my adulthood.
In Rochester the shallch manos were different. Everyone in the community had a theme and all everyone talked about all day were the themes. It made things easy, because everyone got the same one, just assemble one kind and your done. Some had the Mexican theme, or the apple theme or the drunken theme, tons of themes or no theme at all just clever, like building houses out of candies and fruits. It was cool, and it always meant the food was fresh and interesting. I am all about the themes, because unlike in New York where the shallach manos are valued for their cost, here it was valued for creativity. I remember seeing shallach manos that cost more then $100, craziness I always thought to myself, thinking that matanos levyonim was way more important then shallach manos. Oh and by the way two years ago I had a theme, I took little brown bags- the type you drink liquor out of, put a 40 oz bottle of beer and threw a snack inside and wrote on them “Ghetto Shallach Manos”- clever eh.
So this year I spent Purim in Albany and was totally surprised by the lack of fanciness, I received a number of Ziploc bags filled with hamentashen and potato chips, interesting, I thought at the lack of material value in the shallach manos.
This actually got me thinking about something. If people in places like the Five Towns spend so much money in weddings and bar mitzvahs to try and out do each other- do they do the same thing with regards to purim and shallach manos? I can imagine gold encrusted baskets being delivered by horse drawn wagons and guys in white tuxedos delivering them to your door, accompanied by song and dance. Does this actually go on or is it a figment of my extreme imagination?