Dreams for a Festival of Light…and Latkes.
Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights is the eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees, upon returning to the Temple defiled by the Greeks, found one days worth of pure olive oil to light the candles. This oil ultimately lasted for eight days, which is the miracle that the Jewish people celebrate every year during Chanukah.
So to celebrate the oil that lit the candles, we light the menorah. But, we (my roots are Russian, American Jewish and Askenazi,) also create a menu that incorporates this treasured substance. Enter the Latke.
Latkes are delicious and light pancakes that are made of shredded potatoes and onion and then fried in hot oil. They are traditionally served warm (crispy edges, please!) and crowned with a dollop of applesauce and sour cream. This is my favorite Latke recipe by Mark Bittman.
My heritage and roots are my core but my wings of imagination are my oxygen. And so, as I prepare for the first night of Chanukah this Thursday, December 2, I am dreaming of a “One World Latke Party”. Why not let my latkes this year travel the globe, looking for non-traditional accompaniments to try on for the evening?
The folks at Epicurious suggest Latkes with Ancho Chile Salt and Watercress Guacomole. Ole, I say! But then again, perhaps I will let my Latkes travel East and mingle with some Asian flavors such as fresh ginger, scallions, and land themselves in a savory plum dipping sauce.
Hmmmm. India is actually a land with a surprising Jewish history (years ago, I traveled to Cochin, India and learned that it was nicknamed “Jew Town” because of the ancient Jewish community that was once there.) and so perhaps I will be traditionally un-traditional and make some Indian-inspired Sweet Potato Latkes with a spicy Indian pickle relish. Set my heart on fire.
Sometimes however, the best part of traveling is returning home, and with this thought, latkes can easily become Midwestern once again with a dessert of Apple Cinnamon Latkes with just-harvested Seedling Farms Michigan applesauce.
Chanukah. It’s all about the hot oil, after all.