Arsenic and Old Lace

How can something be so delicious, so delicate, so yummy, and yet so deadly?

Sometimes the stories that shape my life happen without me, and have nothing to do with me.  Such is the case of Ju-Boy and the Deadly Almond.  It happened before we met, but for the last almost-seven years has shaped the way I’ve cooked, or haven’t cooked, to be precise.

Ju-Boy, as I may have mentioned before once or twice, has a fondness for single malt whisky.  He also has a fondness for occasions where whisky is served.  Any port in a storm, any celebration in the community… and one Friday night the perfect storm occurred.

Now remember, I wasn’t there, but I have heard the story.  Many times.  Many, many times. People enjoy telling the story.  It all has to do with almonds.  Almonds are delicious.  They make such delicate cakes and cookies and are perfect for noshing.  I love them, but the moment Ju-Boy sees me holding up a packet of them in the supermarket or catches me noshing on one at a friend’s house, he claims I’m trying to kill him.

A shalom zachor -- it's like a frat party for frummies!

Once upon a time we were all popping out babies at an alarming rate.  It was a time full of celebration.  You had a lechayim when the baby was born.  If the baby was a boy you had another lechayim at the bris.  A girl warranted another lechayim at the simchat bat.  But no other baby occasion was more anticipated than the shalom zachar.  I remember once, a few weeks before Didi was born, I was asked outside of our synagogue one Shabbat morning how much longer until the baby was due.  When I replied that it would be sometime towards the end of July here is what my (male) friend said — “The baby should only be healthy, and there should be a shalom zachor!”

So one Friday night there was not one, but two shalom zachors being celebrated in the community.  Ju-Boy was in Chapter One at the time and left his wife at home in the relative peace and quiet of the post-Friday night meal.  He met up with Marc and Sweet Caroline and went to shalom zachor #1.  You eat a piece of cake and have a shot of whisky.  You nibble on some almonds and have a shot of whisky.  While you listen to a speech or dvar torah, you have another shot of whisky.  And then you head out into the night and on to the second shalom zachor.

Again, you nibble on a piece of cake and have a shot of whisky.  You eat a few more almonds and yes, thank you very much, I wouldn’t mind another dram or two.  At this point, as the story goes, Ju-boy’s feet start to itch.  He can’t understand how mosquitoes have managed to bite the soles of his feet while he’s wearing socks and shoes, but the clever little buggers have done it.  And while the bottom of his feet are driving him crazy, he starts to talk like his mouth has been shot full of Novocaine.  To hear exactly what he sounded like, watch the video below.  Sometime around 2 minutes and 20 seconds into the routine, listen carefully, that’s my Ju-Boy.

You would think the alarm would be raised, but nah, that’s just Ju-Boy.  He’s had 378 shots of whisky tonight and he’s just drunk.  Let’s just drop him off at his house and he’ll sleep it off and we can all tease him about it in the morning.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Ju-Boy doesn’t get drunk.  The man can hold his whisky like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  But he’ll act drunk.  He’ll pretend to slur his words and use his alleged state to insult people for his own amusement.  But that night he wasn’t pretending to be drunk.  He wasn’t drunk at all.  What had happened was that some latent allergy to almonds had kicked in, tickled his feet and made his lips and tongue swell to 45,927 times their normal size.

How could anyone accuse me of trying to kill him?

One trip to the emergency room later the man was the proud owner of an EpiPen and was officially allergic to almonds… which he continues to eat.  When we first started dating I made up a batch of Spiced Nuts.  He accused me of trying to kill him and started eating the stuff.  When we were first married I wok-ed up some Chinese chicken dish and added some almonds.  I assumed he would just pick them out.  He accused me of trying to kill him and started eating the stuff.  We’ve been married for almost six years and I’ve held back on the almonds, because he will accuse me of trying to kill him and then start eating the stuff.  And, believe me, sometimes I do want to kill him, but when I do, I’ll make sure it will be in a more enjoyable way than just Death By Almond.

Faye Levy’s Almond Macaroons

This past Pesach I decided enough was enough.  I’m not a fan of the holiday, and I love almond macaroons.  I decided I was finally, after six years of holding back on these babies, going to treat myself to one of my favorite cookies.  Ju-Boy was just going to be the one to hold back, or risk death.

Faye Levy has the best recipe around for these cookies.  Turns out these were a big hit.  The kids loved them, they loved the chewy almondness of it all, and even Marc and Sweet Caroline’s son G.I. Joel called to tell me how yummy they were (he actually called to ask if they were parve, but got the compliment in anyway, and that’s what counts for me).

  • 2 1/4 cups whole of slivered blanched almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 dash vanilla or 1 packet of vanilla sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Grind the almonds together with 1/4 cup of the sugar in the food processor until you have fine crumbs.
  3. Add the egg whites and the vanilla (or vanilla sugar) and process until you have a smooth paste
  4. Add in the remaining sugar in two separate batches, processing well after each time.  Once all the sugar is in keep going for another 10 seconds or so to get a really even paste.
  5. Wet your hands and take about 1 tablespoon of paste and roll into a ball.  Place on the baking sheet and press it to flatten it slightly.  Keep going until all the paste is used up and you have rows of about-to-be-delicious cookies waiting to go into the oven.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly and evenly browned.  The centers should still be a little soft.
  7. Let the cookies cool on the baking an then transfer to a cookie jar.  Keep them airtight.

Serve to macaroon mavens and almond aficionados.  If serving to almond allergics, make sure it comes with a side of EpiPen.

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About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 6 May 2011, in Alcohol, Celebrations, Cookies, Family Life, Faye Levy, Passover and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. My mom makes something similar with walnuts. Hers is less of a paste but you beat the eggwhites with sugar, add the walnuts and let sit for a few hours–then spoon onto cookie sheets and put a walnut, pecan or almond in the center of each. This may be an alternative for Ju-Boy, but I’m sticking with the almonds (a) because I like them better and (b) I’ve just developed my own walnut allergy. Sadly no whisky involved in that episode.

  2. rutimizrachi

    As ever, you delight me. “And, believe me, sometimes I do want to kill him, but when I do, I’ll make sure it will be in a more enjoyable way…” Enjoyable for whom??? I merely ask for information.

    Sigh. Now you’ve started me on a Bill Cosby retrospective. Like I have time for this. :-D

  3. I just pulled mine out of the oven. The recipe was the perfect size for my 100 shekel Pilot food processor, and the process was much easier than any of the meringues or other cookies I’ve made in the past. I used two bags of whole almonds. I let my kids form the cookies. I would suggest rolling in a ball and flattening slightly in your hands, not on the cookie sheet. I was thinking these might be good with a little cocoa powder sprinkled on top. If you wanted something fancy, you could even use a stencil to make heart shapes or something with the cocoa powder. Next year I will make at least two batches.

  4. OMG these are so good! Take them away! I want to try a sugar free version with cocoa and hazelnut. Maybe a little honey.

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