Latkes!

Tonight will be the third night of Chanukah, and since my family has not yet had latkes at dinner, I bring what I hope will be some inspiration–the Maccabeats singing “Latke Recipe,” lyrics by Spencer Garfield:


Video by Maccabeats Videos

There is also a demonstration video version:


Video by Maccabeats Videos

The song on which this parody is based, “Shut Up and Dance,” was written by members of Walk the Moon with Ben Berger and Ryan McMahon, and I have no information on their respective religious identities. The “Latke Recipe” lyrics were (mostly) written by Spencer Garfield, the Religious School Music teacher of Temple Emanu-El of Marblehead, MA. It seems safe to conclude that he is Jewish–and in any case it’s a Chanukah song!

In case you don’t know, latkes are fried potato pancakes that are traditionally served on Chanukah. Well. Potato pancakes are obviously not that ancient a tradition, seeing that potatoes are a New World food, but FRIED, that is reasonably old–eating fried foods, particularly those fried in olive oil, commemorates the Chanukah miracle. To wit: When the Jewish revolt against the Selucid Empire succeeded in retaking the Temple (165 BCE), it was cleansed and rededicated. The great Menorah in the Temple could only be lit with olive oil specially pressed and kept pure for that purpose, and the process took eight days, but they could find only one container of the needed oil. The story goes that the one flask of oil–one day’s worth–burned for the entire eight days, until the new oil was ready. So on Chanukah we light chanukiot (eight-branched Chanukah menorahs, as distinguished from the great seven-branched Menorah that stood in the Temple), and we eat sufganiyot (deep fried jelly donuts, yummmm!) or latkes (also yummmm!) (basically almost anything deep fried is yummmm! except for candy bars or butter or like that), potatoes being something that Jews in shtetls in Eastern Europe and Russia could easily come by. If you want to join the celebration by making some latkes yourself, there are about a bazillion recipes out there, not forgetting this one, so just pick one that appeals to you and includes frying in oil, because frying in oil is the WHOLE POINT. (None of your fake baked alternatives!)

Cooking tip from a very non-expert cook: If you want to try the recipe in this song, I would suggest you wring out the grated potatoes in a towel first, or at least drain them as well as you can, because water in hot oil spatters and makes a terrible mess–and the latkes won’t brown as easily if they are wet. But it’s just a suggestion! Fresh latkes always taste excellent, especially with either sour cream or apple sauce.