The magic of making Hanukkah latkes – a remembrance

Religion News Wilmington

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There are store-bought latkes – the perfectly round varieties made with spinach, potato or sweet potato. You can bake those or fry them.

And then there are latkes – the kind that take graded potato mixed with onions, hand-pattied with ragged edges and fried in grease. (Hopefully, vegetable grease because that’s better for your heart.)

Anyta Ledbetter, an office worker at B’nai Israel Synagogue in Wilmington, likes them both, but her childhood memories of making hand-grated Hanukkah latkes with her grandmother are the strongest. She made 100 of those, served with salad, dilled Greek yogurt, applesauce and sour cream for B’nai Israel’s Hanukkah party this year.

“I loved helping my grandmother make the latkes. She was a fabulous cook. She made everything from scratch, of course everyone did back then,” Ledbetter said. “Some people use flour; some use matzo, but I like matzo because it makes them crispier. And of course, you have to get the oil nice and hot.”

It’s all about the oil. Of course, some people have switched up the tradition and now make jelly donuts or salmon patties, Ledbetter said. Variation is fine, as long as the oil is there.

The oil families are cooking their latkes in as the Jewish eight-night holiday of Hanukkah begins on Tuesday Dec. 20, links them back to the miracle of the tiny vile of oil that lasted a week and a day during the re-dedication of the Temple following the Jewish defeat of the Greeks.

Each night during the Festival of Lights, a candle is lit in a family’s menorah in remembrance of that miracle. (Incidentally, Hanukkah is a relatively minor Jewish holiday, religiously-speaking, compared to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover in the spring. Though Hanukkah has become the best known.)

B’nai Israel had their Hanukkah party a week early this year because Hanukkah falls so close to Christmas, and many families with children will be traveling this week, said Rabbi Robert Waxman. The last Friday before Hanukkah is reserved for a celebration with the synagogue’s religious school students.

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