It’s loud and colorful and full of smells that are overwhelming. Machane Yehuda – that would be the Jewish Market in Jerusalem – is an absolutely happening place and one of the iconic shops pulling in the crowds is Marzipan.
Most mornings, especially on Friday with the approach of Shabbat, lines of Marzipan fans start maneuvering for position, waiting for the first batches of rugelach to be pulled from the oven. It’s a special bit of sweetness that is offered up, a gooey bit of goodness filled with chocolate. Forgive my mixing of food groups, but the cookies sell like hot cakes!
I mention all this now because I’ll be returning to Jerusalem this spring and will be paying a pilgrimage to Marzipan. This time I know the rules and won’t be grabbing whatever’s around being offered. Let me explain.
Back in 2009, after reading about the bakery and all that it has to offer, I managed to stumble on the shop. Machane Yehuda was coming to life, hundreds of locals and tourists milling about, shopping for fresh fruit and veggies; spices and sweets; fish, poultry and beef. Oh, and rugelach.
In fact, it seemed that half the city was camped outside the doors of Marzipan, crazed from the sweet smells wafting from its innards. When I finally managed to make it inside, I saw that there were a half-dozen women standing about. I wasn’t certain how to go about placing an order, but it seemed that everyone was deferring to me. Go figure! So I raised two fingers and did a little pointing, handed over a few shekels and walked out with a bag of goodies.
It was only a few moments later when I spotted the baker pulling out yet another fresh tray of rugelach that I realized I had just managed to scarf up the dregs of the last batch. I’m thinking the appropriate cliché is “live and learn”!
Truth to tell, Marzipan’s rugelach is an acquired taste. For some folks, it can be a little too gooey and a little too sweet. There are at least a half-dozen other bakeries in the same area selling versions of the Jewish cookie that’s light and flaky and just this side of the uber sweetness of Marzipan.
A footnote: Despite the foolish belief of some foodie novices, there’s absolutely no marzipan in Marzipan’s cookies; and, for those who care, the iconic cookie is called rugelach, not marzipan. That said, no matter what you call it, don’t forget to call me if you’re in my little corner of the world and happen to have a bag of the stuff.