Holiday time. Latke time. It’s that simple. The holidays have always been about family gatherings -- when the kids were little, it was the wonder of lights and presents with relatives; now it’s a chance to welcome those same kids home from far away. Whatever the setting, we have latkes – and Dad makes the latkes.
When I was younger I thought of myself as a good cook. As I wooed my soon-to-be wife with my signature pasta dish (farfalle con fungi), she was kind enough to indulge me in that belief. My skills have diminished with lack of practice. A recent attempt at a family meal is recalled as “that time when Dad tried to poison the whole family." But I’m still good at preparing latkes. In part, it is my secret techniques, all borrowed from Joan Nathan’s cookbook, like shredding the potatoes lengthwise, wringing out all the water and re-incorporating the potato starch.
I suspect that the most important ingredient, however, is tradition. Food is an integral part of culture, and our cultural traditions help to support and sustain our faith and our community. This connection between food and faith is prevalent across many religions. When we can connect religious or cultural traditions with family traditions, the bonds grow even stronger. We build lasting memories for our kids and deep foundations for generations to follow. And the latkes taste so good, especially if you remember to fry at high heat with peanut oil. That’s part of the tradition, too.