It's almost Purim. We dig out the box of costumes, faced with the yearly question of what to dress up as. But another question must also be resolved. Do I buy those perfect, predictable commercially produced hamantashen, golden brown with just enough filling, neatly smiling from their cellophane wrappers? Or, do I embark with the kids on a jelly and margarine spattered adventure, making those oozing, misshapen and unraveling homemade hamantashen — some thick and chewy, others thin and crispy-burnt?

A few years into the "mothering thing" my enthusiasm for these homey projects was on the wane. I opted for the clean and easy way to do the mitzvah of Shalach Manot: sending an organizational contribution card, followed by a trip to the kosher bakery for a few token store-bought hamantashen for the family.

A little voice inside nudged "Cop-out!" A little voice inside nudged, "Sterile! Cop-out!" but I shushed it with my liberated motto, " I don't do potchka (involved, intricate) baking, I've got more important things to do!"

But Bubby's passing changed all that.

My grandmother, whom we called Bubby Faygel, was a diminutive, self-educated, orphaned immigrant from the Ukrainian shtetl of Topperey. Bubby didn't know about the new educational theories that children learn better with multi-sensorial exposure. She wasn't the curator of a Jewish children's museum featuring hands-on exhibits. She didn't participate in lengthy studies or advisory boards on Jewish continuity.

So how did she inspire three generations with Jewish identity bubbling through their veins like chicken soup? At Bubby's funeral, my cousin Elissa spoke movingly about Bubby's hands. "Bubby's hands were the windows of her soul."

What is it about her hands that linger on in my thoughts and reveal so much of her essence?

Inspired by Bubby, I exert myself, cooking with intensity and intention. I feel Bubby alongside me. In the Fridays since her passing, I have braided, cooked, stirred, chopped and cleaned with Bubby, and pondered her hands and what they created.

When I cook, I am often not really present Like many of today's women, I've tried to integrate sometimes disparate messages about my identity. I was introduced to the beauty of traditional life, thank G‑d, and have firmly embraced as my primary goal the creation of a warm Jewish home for my family.

However, the more worldly definitions of success and meaning also vie for their due. When I cook, I am often not really present; my mind is on the next thing, and I tend to indulge in thoughts like, "This is so boring. I'm never going to have time for meaningful things. I wish I could hire someone to do this. I'm too intelligent and creative for this."

I've created a mental barrier against getting too balabatish (homemakerish)... because "That's not befitting college-educated women who want to do world-saving work!" I drew my line in the sand, and issued a policy statement. "I don't do potchka foods like knishes, kreplach, strudels, or, you guessed it, homemade hamantashen. Even my challah, which I enjoy making each week, is kneaded minimally and haphazardly braided. And the hamantashen fell by the wayside. How can I take the time?

My dawning awareness of the tremendous impact and legacy Bubby Faygel created, largely with her hands, has thrown a wrench into my little equation. Bubby knew intuitively that for the values and warmth of the Old Country to take root here, platitudes were not enough — you had to walk your talk. We all loved to be around her, her unique charm, unconditional love and concern.

But Bubby didn't let us just bask in the warmth of her presence. She brought this care down to earth in her crochet stitches, her hand-made dolls, and the thousands of carefully rolled, cut, lined up in neat rows and baked pastries. Stacked neatly in coffee jars and cottage cheese containers, these were little care packages of Bubby's love to take home and warm yourself by the next morning.

Bubby had her career, working side by side with Zeide in their hand laundry, candy store and various struggling businesses, as did many immigrant women. She loved to read, write and draw, and was active in numerous organizations. But she was never too busy to patiently peel and dice the garlic for her famous chicken- without a Cuisinart, of course.

Bubby's strudel and knishes were the given centerpiece of every family gathering. I could be anywhere in the world, and if I would but see a modest poppy-seed cookie, I'd be transported to Bubby's kitchen, not just enjoying a tasty morsel, but "incidentally" reabsorbing the beautiful sounds, smells, love and Yiddishkeit wafting through the air.

This "incidental" aspect of Bubby's handiwork has contributed to a most major life accomplishment. She built a loving, adoring family that cherishes her memory and follows in her path, building Jewish lives. It wasn't just the kreplach, but their importance, the multi-sensory Jewish experience, cannot be underestimated.

My daughter and I were recently looking at an ad for take-out Shabbos food. It featured two roasted chickens, fish, kugel and salad, for the same price, or maybe even cheaper, than I could make it. Tempting. But, we realized, it wouldn't do. In a pinch perhaps, but a as weekly fare it just wouldn't nourish.

There's more to food than calories, and more to a home than a place to sleep. It's those caring intangibles, and those hours of stirring, chopping, rolling and pinching that can slice by slice and stitch by stitch weave a connecting net to sustain a family and nation.

Okay, okay, we're building memories and generations here. I'm the proud owner of a new rolling pin and half my grocery's supply of poppy seeds. With Bubby's recipe in hand, I'm ready to roll up my sleeves, claim my inheritance and embellish her legacy with a few more hamantashen. I'm making time to gather my kids, roll the dough with care and pinch it with pride.