If you don’t already have a Jewish grandmother, this recipe (Barefoot Contessa Parties!) will make you wish you had one to make these for you. In the small Wisconsin town where I grew up, religious lines were drawn not between Christian and Jewish populations, but Catholics and Lutherans. Still, somehow I ingratiated myself into Jewish culture. When I was three – maybe four - years old, my older sister was in a community production of The Fiddler on the Roof. I was hooked. My parents brought home the VHS version of “Fiddler” starring Topol, and instead of playing princess or fairies like other girls my age, I pretended to be a middle-aged Jewish milkman. (Only the starring role would do for me, of course – I had no desire to be any of Tevye’s daughters, his wife, or even the diminuitive matchmaker.) I brought the vinyl record of the film’s soundtrack to my grandparents’ house and insisted on wearing a head covering and prayer shawl when spinning and dancing around their living room. Everyone thought I would grow out of it, and I suppose I did, but I still watched that VHS tape so many times that it was warped and worn by the time I was a teenager, and my mom replaced it with a new copy in my Easter basket one year. The irony that it was an Easter gift is not lost on me.
Now, I live in the hometown of Al Franken and the Coen Brothers. Judaica stores and kosher delis surround us. Making rugelach feels both appropriate for my current surroundings and a harkening back to my days as a Tevye wannabe. These little bundles look like a lot of work, and they are a little fussy to make, but they aren’t as difficult as I thought they would be. And while I’m not the biggest fan of raisins, if you’re going to eat raisins, this is the way to eat them. Make these. Enjoy these. L’chaim and all that.