This Week of Lights

Hanukkah, or Chanukah, meaning “dedication,” is an eight-day Festival of Lights celebrated by the Jewish faith. This year, it began at sunset on December 1.

The second temple in Jerusalem was rededicated after a successful uprising of the Jews against the Syrian government. Their leader, Judah Maccabee, lit the branched menorah, which was to burn every night.

According to legend, there was only enough olive oil to keep this candelabrum burning for one night, but it continued for eight nights. This gave them time to locate more oil to keep it burning after that time. This is an exceptionally abbreviated history of this celebration, but you can read more details of the history behind Hanukkah here.

Traditionally, latkes or potato pancakes are eaten during this period of time. You may wonder what the connection is between potato pancakes and Hanukkah. The latkes are fried in generous amounts of oil to symbolize the oil that kept the menorah burning for eight nights, although I imagine in today’s time, many look for lower fat ways to make their latkes. Just recently, I saw a recipe for sweet potato latkes that looked delicious and healthy!

The basic recipe for latkes is grated potato and onion mixed with a beaten egg, a couple tablespoons of matzo meal or flour, salt and pepper to taste, and made into small pancakes. These are smashed flat and fried in a skillet in several tablespoons of olive oil, turning to brown on both sides. I remember eating these topped with applesauce. I have read that the starchier the potato, the crispier the latke. If you search Google for latkes, you’ll find all sorts of variations.

Oh my, I’m getting hungry for latkes!


3 thoughts on “This Week of Lights”

  1. I love latkes! When I had my kitchen shop in Miami Lakes (a neighborhood near Miami) I had an employee who was Jewish and she invited us to her house for a meal during Hanukkah one year….They were delicious and I was hooked.
    I have a Jewish foodie friend in So. California that shared some pictures of the latests batch she made – she makes them a bit thicker than the norm and crisps them up nicely….I can’t wait to taste them!

    1. I grew up calling them Potato Pancakes because I lived in a German neighborhood! 🙂 I suppose they objected to using the Jewish word, but they were just as good, no matter what they were called!

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