Category: Side Dishes | Blog URL: http://sliceofearthlydelight.blogspot.com/2009/12/celebrating-with-latkes.html
This recipe was entered in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, a compilation of the world’s best food blogs which was published in Fall 2010.
Photo: Maya Rook
Food is an incredibly valuable tool to learn about other cultures, religions, and traditions. It helps us to understand how other people see the world and live their lives. With the holiday of Chanukah occurring right now, cooking and eating traditional Chanukah foods is a way to experience others’ culture if you are not Jewish and to immerse yourself further in your heritage if you are Jewish.
While in elementary school, the parents of Jewish families would always come in during Chanukah and teach the class about the holiday and teach us to make latkes. Coming from a Buddhist family and living in a largely Christian town, the experience of learning about Jewish traditions in school informed me about other people’s beliefs and traditional holiday practices. Today many schools choose to ignore religion altogether, but I have to say that learning about Chanukah in school certainly opened me up to other experiences and also made me feel more connected to the traditions being celebrated at my friends’ homes. And I really can’t argue with using food to teach children about anything!
Potatoes made crispy by frying in oil always taste good, and I’m a big fan of fries and chips—but latkes are really something special. You don’t have latkes just any old day. Those lovely potato pancakes that are crispy on the outside and slightly soft on the inside, nice and warm, topped with sour cream and applesauce are a treat that doesn’t come too often throughout the year. In celebration of Chanukah, latkes, and other fried foods, symbolize the oil that lasted for eight days in the Temple in Jerusalem. The story behind the holiday is that the Syrians were driven out of Israel by Judah and his followers, called the Macabees, and the Temple in Jerusalem was reclaimed. After the temple was rededicated, the Macabees wanted to light the N’er Tamid, or eternal light, which once lit should not be extinguished, but they only had enough oil for the light to burn for one night. They found a small amount of oil to light the lamp that was enough to burn for one evening, but miraculously lasted for eight nights, which was enough time to process more oil to keep the lamp lit. Today, believers of the Jewish faith celebrate this “Festival of Lights” by lighting a menorah each night for eight nights, exchanging gifts, and eating celebratory foods like latkes.
I hope you enjoy these delicious latkes. Happy Chanukah!