Latkes: A Hanukkah Tradition

by Eve Neider

I’ll always remember the smell of the oil and the sound of sizzling batter hitting the frying pan. My brother and I playing dreidel and fighting over the gelt (chocolate coins) while my dad sets up the menorah and my mom makes trays of latkes will forever be ingrained in my memory as a fun family tradition. I’ll also always remember the sound of the fire alarm blaring from all the latkes being fried and my family running around together to try to open all the windows and turn on the fans. Latkes are a Jewish staple during Hanukkah; onion-y, fried potato pancakes that can be eaten with sour cream or applesauce.

Hanukkah celebrates when the Maccabees reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem from the Syrian-Greeks army. The menorah was lit with oil that was supposed to last one day, but it lasted eight days – the eight days of Hanukkah. Every night of the holiday you add a candle to the menorah, using the central candle to light the other eight. Latkes are cooked in oil in part because it represents the miracle of the oil lasting eight days.

Latkes are easy to make and a fun dish to cook with family or friends:

Grate 2 russet potatoes and a large onion. Squeeze out any extra liquid as best as you can and put the grated vegetables in a large bowl. Add 2 eggs, ½ cup of all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, ½ teaspoon of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of baking powder to the bowl. Mix all the ingredients together until the flour is absorbed. Put oil in the pan and heat. The oil is hot enough when a little bit of batter sizzles in the pan. Take a spoonful of the batter and drop it in the pan. Use a spatula to flatten the batter into a circle. When the edges are brown and crispy – usually after about five minutes – flip the latke over and cook for five minutes on the other side. When the latkes are brown and crispy on both sides, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Serve with a little sour cream or applesauce if you feel like it.

Latkes are like if a hash brown and a french fry had a delicious child! And you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate latkes. I have always found it fun to introduce my non-Jewish friends to my culture and see their eyes light up when they bite into a latke. Hanukkah might be the forgotten holiday next to Christmas, but it is a festive celebration that includes gift giving, delicious food, catchy music, and quality time with family and friends. Hanukkah has always been full of fun, enjoyable memories and traditions that have been passed down from generations; why not start a new one with your family?

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