December 22–The Kitchen: The Flavors of Chanukah

Jewish holiday is often centered around the kitchen, as it is tradition that the food we eat reflects the holiday we celebrate. What comes from this is a variety of rich traditions based in the kitchen reflective of not only the holiday, but the culture, and family.

My traditions are small, much like the holiday historically. I light my menorah, say the prayers, cook dinner, and play with my pups. But, it is not always what we do on Chanukah, so much as what we eat. The same oil I use when I cook goes into my menorah. The same can be said for many families that use an oil menorah – using the bottle to light the menorah and then pouring oil into the pan and this is when the magic begins.

It is Eastern European tradition to use the oil to make latkes – potato pancakes. While there are recipes for almost every kind of latke possible, families make their own traditions, adding spices and flavors. When I make latkes, I add a little rosemary, garlic, salt, and dip mine in sour cream. Others use apple sauce.

It is Western European and Israeli tradition to make doughnuts. Deep fried, sugary, smothered, covered, any way you want ‘em doughnuts. Sufganiyot – jelly filled dougnuts – are a large part of tradition and can be found almost everywhere. I haven’t yet tackled doughnut making, but I like cinnamon or fruit and cheese filled doughnuts.

These are “traditional traditions” (if you will), but over the years, people have expanded the list of traditional foods to include almost anything fried – fried cheese sandwiches, fried cupcakes, fried bananas; the list doesn’t seem to end. And so I wonder, what traditions will I add over time in my kitchen? Will I continue to add on to what’s already been done, or will I branch out and flip the definition of “fried food” on its head? Probably not the latter, but whatever I do, whatever anyone does, it adds flavor to tradition and to the holiday – and isn’t that what a kitchen’s all about?

Miriam Patrick

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