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Ida Weinhouse's fluden forms

This is a collection of hand-carved wooden blocks that my mother's grandmother Ida Muller Weinhouse brought to this country around 1905 from Yedinitz in northern Bessarabia (part of the Russian Empire in the 19th century and now Edinet, in Moldova). My mother, Pearl Weinhouse Kabaker, framed them some years later. She said they are for decorating fluden, a kind of pastry associated with Jewish holidays. The forms are pressed into the top of the pastry, leaving raised designs.

I have found several references to fluden in histories of Jewish families or communities. A number of fluden recipes are posted on the Internet, sometimes credited to Joan Nathan. It is a sweet pastry, filled with poppy seeds, figs, honey, apples and raisins, cheese, or other fillings. In most recipes, the dough is folded and rolled several times for a flaky texture. Rolled thin, it lines the bottom of a pan and is covered with layers of filling and dough, filling and dough, then baked.

The recipes say nothing about using carved forms to decorate the pastry. My mother mentioned Purim, while other sources talk about fluden at Rosh Hashana and Sukkot.

Recently I learned that another form of fluden was common in Bessarabia. This version uses a kind of thin waffle, already baked, to surround a layer (or two?) of filling. This dough, more like challah, is more suited to pressing the patterns before baking. (See the Centropa.org historical interview of Mendel Kreimer in Kishinev. He says, "On Purim, my mother made hamantashen and fluden. For fluden she bought special patterned waffles and boiled nuts in honey for filling. There was also baklava.")

Below is the framed collection of 10 blocks, measuring about 30" x 18". Each is carved on both sides, with different designs on the backs. A mouse-click on a number below will bring up an enlargement, approximately life-sized, of the corresponding form.

If you have any further information about fluden forms in 19th-century Europe, please get in touch with me at harvey.kabaker@verizon.net.

Harvey Kabaker

 
 

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