What are hamantashen? They’re cookies, first of all, delicious little triangles of shortbread-like pastry folded around a gooey centre. Mohn (poppyseeds), prunes and fruit jam are the most traditional fillings, though chocolate, cream cheese or Nutella aren’t unheard of.
They’re also a powerful symbol. Eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim, the three-cornered treats commemorate the defeat of Haman, a villainous megalomaniac whose plot to kill Persia’s Jews was foiled by brave resistors.
Sensing a parallel to current events (would renaming them Putin-tashen be too on the nose?), Laurel Kratochvila of Fine Bagels had an idea. Though her bakery, housed in the Friedrichshain English bookshop Shakespeare & Sons, is most famous as the source of Berlin’s hands-down best NY-style bagels, it also produces a number of other Jewish-American goodies – including hamantashen in the lead-up to every Purim. With the holiday falling on March 17 this year, she decided to donate her cookie profits in solidarity with Ukraine. And she’d encourage other bakers to do the same.
Within three days, she had a cause (the organisation Polish Humanitarian Action, currently providing emergency assistance at the Ukrainian border), a co-conspirator (the writer and foodie Joe Baur), an eye-catching logo (from local graphic designer Kristina Wedel) and a fast-expanding list of participants. The baking world is “quite community-minded and easy to mobilise,” Kratochvila points out, citing the 2020 initiative Bakers Against Racism as an inspiration. She started getting sign-ups from across Europe and the US: France to the Netherlands, Los Angeles to her Massachusetts hometown.
Not to mention Berlin. Between now and March 17, you’ll be able to find Hamantashen for Ukraine at Neukölln café Katie’s Blue Cat, vegan mobile stand C + Conscious Cuisine, Kreuzberg croissanterie La Maison, Prenzlauer Berg confectioner Shuga and more. “I didn’t want to have too many rules,” Kratochvila says, and so the cookies are available as multi-week offerings or single-day specials, in variations ranging from orthodox to wild (the creme brûlée one at Tinman has our interest piqued) to not-actually-hamantashen (Barcomi’s is chipping in with a blue and yellow cupcake). Fine Bagels itself is offering poppyseed and chocolate-apricot versions the whole time, except for a few days when Kratochvila will yield the kitchen to Ruth Barry of the late Black Isle Bakery.
Go here for the full, updated rundown.
And if you don’t happen to like hamantashen (yeah, screw you too, Bon Appetit), there are a number of other ways to support Ukraine through your gullet:
- This Sunday (March 6) from 12-4pm, the brand-new Bar Normal is hosting a fundraiser featuring food from a cavalcade of hot locavore destinations (Ernst! Ember! Etc!) plus loads of natural wine and kombucha. Expect to pay €15 a plate and €5 per glass, all of which will go towards aid organisations.
- From 12pm on Saturday and Sunday (March 5-6), vegan pop-up No School Donuts is setting up shop at Neukölln’s Isla Coffee; €1 per donut sold will go towards Ukraine support.
- Crazy Bastard is donating 50 percent of online hot sauce sales to the umbrella org Aktionsbündnis Katastrophenhilfe (but only through today, March 3).
- Calm Coffee is serving an eye-catching blue and yellow lemonade, half the proceeds from which will be donated
- Vegan fast-food joint Neue Republik Reger is fighting Putin with, you guessed it, poutine. They’ll be donating €1 from every order of their meatless loaded fries to a Ukraine support organisation (TBD).