Lessons Learned Over Latkes

I'm not in the habit of one-upping little kids, but yesterday a nerve was touched, and I had no choice but to put the seven year old boy whose family I cook for in his place. I was telling him about the latkes that I was going to make the following evening and all about Hanukkah in general. In response he derisively said, "Hanukkah is lame, Christmas is so much better." What happened next was pure reflex. "Oh yeah," I prompted with the perfect snotty tone of childish defensiveness, "Well guess what?" I continued, "Hanukkah starts tonight. You know what that means? That means that I get to start opening presents tonight and get to continue to do so for the next eight nights. When do you open your Christmas presents? Two whole weeks from now? I think Hanukkah rocks!" I felt mildly guilty, but I don't have a lot of patience for religious intolerance in today's world on any level, and figured I might as well nip it in the bud on terms that he could comprehend.

Today's success story trumps yesterday's Christmas versus Hanukkah squabble, however. As I was busily grating potatoes, zucchini and onions for my Grandma Adele's latke recipe, the seven year old approached me in the kitchen. Standing tippy-toed, he attempted to peer into the massive silver bowl in front of me. "What's in there?" he asked, curiously. "I'm making latkes," I said, "see", and I tilted the bowl to allow him a look. "I don't like latkes," he said as he lowered himself back down and then quickly scurried off to go terrorize his sisters. Letting out a deep sigh of defeat, I added the eggs, sprinkled on the matzoh meal and mixed it all together.

Flash forward several hours later. Having just served the family dinner, I left the room and held my breath as I normally do, awaiting the standard nightly dinner-specific whines. But amazingly, there were none. Finally, I heard a few rumblings from the dining room — "Good chicken!" "How much broccoli do I have to eat?" and then, much to my amazement, the most beautiful sound came out of the mouth of the seven year old boy, "Latkes are the greatest thing on the planet! Especially with homemade applesauce!" I was tempted to dramatically fall on the floor, in a giant thud, next to the dining room table to illustrate my shock at his exclamation, but instead, I just smiled to myself, and quietly added another mental notch to my "food battles won" list.

Grandma Adele's Squash Latkes

1 Russet potato, coarsely grated

1 large, green zucchini, coarsely grated

1 medium yellow onion, coarsely grated

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tsp. oil (plus more for cooking)

1-1 1/2 cups matzoh meal

salt and pepper to taste

oil for cooking

1. Combine potato, zucchini, onion, egg, oil and salt and pepper.

2. Sprinkle in about 3/4 of a cup of matzoh meal and mix.

3. Mixture should be loose, but should not have any watery liquid. If it does, add more matzoh meal.

4. Heat a saute pan with about 1/4" of oil to medium high.

5. Add latkes to the pan by the heaping tablespoonful and cook until dark-golden brown and crisp on the outside.

6. Serve with sour cream and applesauce.

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