So, yeah, Happy Hanukah. 🙂
My family came over for brunch on Sunday for our annual Chanukah gathering. Noshing of food, exchanging of gifts, airing of grievances…..wait, scratch that last one, this isn’t Festivus.
Tangent: holy CRAP, there are a lot of websites for Festivus, including one where you can get your own Festivus pole. Are you freakin’ kidding me????
Anyway, back to Hanukkah! I offered to host, and I like to do brunch; it’s the meal I feel most comfortable making special occasiony. I can rock a couple of brunch dishes, yes I can. And conveniently, traditional Chanuka latkes, a.k.a. potato pancakes, work nicely for brunch.
All latke recipes are essentially the same: shred some potatoes and onion, stir in some egg and flour, fry them in oil. Fried potato Chanukkah goodness. What’s not to love?
Hmm…..lemme make a list.
Let’s begin with my own stupidity. I always shred too many potatoes. Always.. Nobody could make or eat that many latkes. Seriously, it’s like the potatoes double in quantity in the process of grating.
One of the things I like about making brunch is I have a slew of recipes where you do all the prep the night before, stick it in the fridge overnight, pop it in the oven in the morning, and it’s fresh and awesome and delicious with little effort the morning of. Latkes do not afford this luxury. Theoretically you can make them in advance and reheat them, but there’s no way they’ll be crispy. (Please tell me if you have successfully accomplished this!) And you can’t do the prep in advance. Once you start shredding those taters, you’d better get to cooking or they’ll turn brown and/or gray and disgusting. Nobody wants gray food.
So it’s almost time for company to arrive, I’d prefer to be tending to final details and on the ready to greet people, but instead I’m in the kitchen getting sweaty and disheveled with a pan full of hot oil (I hate cooking with oil) and a ridiculously large bowl of latke guts. I put one test latke into the pan. It does not hold together. I add more flour to the bowl. I put another test latke into the pan. It’s holding together, but when it’s time to flip it, oil spatters my hand mid-flip and my reflexive jerking away causes the latke to fall into a clump in the pan.
I consider that all of my company has arrived, the caramel french toast in the oven is almost ready, and I have yet to make a successful latke.
I look at the bowl of shredded potato. The bowl of shredded potato looks at me.
I dump the entire bowl into the pan to prepare the not-yet-as-widely-celebrated Hanuka hash browns. Next time I’ll try to get them a little crispier. What I will not do next time is bother trying to make latkes.
And I haven’t even mentioned one of the worst parts yet, not directly anyway. Fried. In oil. My house reeks. Days later, my house reeks. It’s almost as bad as cooking bacon. (Bacon, not so much a traditional Channukah food.) And to exacerbate the situation, I don’t have an exhaust fan in my kitchen.
Hence, I believe I am done with my latke adventures. Food should not stress you out, in my opinion. And I’m pretty sure my family can successfully and joyfully celebrate Chanukka without them.
(I confess, I might just be looking for opportunities to work Hanukka into sentences.)
I have come to accept that there are certain foods that I’m not going to master, and that’s ok. Even if they’re really basic things like latkes or cutout sugar cookies (shut up, cookie cutters are tricky). Maybe someday I’ll try again, who knows. But life is too short to get bent out of shape over a potato.
Happy Hannuka! I mean Hannukkah! I mean Chanuqa! (Ok, not that last one.)
(I was going to look for some fun pic of the Muppets or something wishing a Happy Hanukah and then I realized I already have something much more fun, courtesy of my friend Mark Lahey from last year’s Great Photoshop Smackdown. It’s time to do that again!)