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Latkes - the Topic!

Fat Guy

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My cookbook has at least 2 recipes that call for Ketchup. :shock:

I am not embarassed at all that I use it in some of my dishes.

IN fact I know several very well respected and revered chefs that also do the same.  They may not always fess up to it.. But it is true.

And potatoes and Ketchup are great partners  in my book.  They work very well.

I could think of no better accompaniment to my Indian Potato Pancakes... and when I have eaten Latkes, I have discretely found ketchup to enjoy them with. :shock:

While I have never had a latke (but hope to), if they taste similar to hashbrowns or rosti, ketchup or tabasco (or tommy's ketchup sriracha combo) would be my favorite accompaniment to them. :rolleyes:

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Now that we're on to ketchup: may I point out that the cauliflower dish so many people adored at the Diwan dinner had ketchup in its sauce?  :blink:  :shock:  And it WAS a truly delicious dish.

And many a foodie and food writer and food industry person has eaten that Cauliflower dish at Diwan and sung endless praises of that dish. And Ketchup is the main ingredient after cauliflower. :shock: But I am telling the honest truth.

Potatoes and ketchup are a great combination. :raz: See thinking about it makes me drool. :smile:

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Potatoes and ketchup are a great combination. :raz: See thinking about it makes me drool. :smile:

Heelllloo.......french fries are, after all, potatoes last time I looked and whats the most common condiment with them? Suvir, I'm drooling along with you :biggrin:

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I had one tonight for the very first time. Oh my goodness. This was a little bite of heaven. My vice-chair on school council is Jewish and made them. I picked her up for our Council meeting tonight and before I had my coat off I had one of these. She served it with sour cream, which is a favourite of mine anyway.


Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Potatoes and ketchup are a great combination. :raz: See thinking about it makes me drool. :smile:

Heelllloo.......french fries are, after all, potatoes last time I looked and whats the most common condiment with them? Suvir, I'm drooling along with you :biggrin:

Duh... french fries and ketchup. Tease you are... Now I am drooling even more. :sad:

Ed Schoenfeld has traveled with me and dined with me more than my family has in the last 6 years... he can vouch for what I will not do to get potatoes.. and if I can get ketchup alongside my spuds, I am in heaven.

I would do anything in return.

And it is funny you mention French Fries whilst we have Ed Schoenfeld doing a Q&A. He makes the best French Fries other than those made in my kitchen. :shock: How modest I am. :rolleyes: But yes Ed makes amazing French Fries... and we have often feasted on them.. and I have made them my dinner. It is a shame that more restaurants do not prepare them in house and correctly. Not many things in life can be as deeply addictive and delicious as French Fries made correctly and fresh.:smile:

As I drool now.. I will also be somewhat angry at you... at almost close to midnight, you have made my mind wander into French Fry mode... Now I am all greedy for them.. And hungry... even after a several coursed Indian meal.

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Oh I have nothing against ketchup, believe me! When I was a kid my mother used to say,"cakewalk, dahlink, maybe you'd like a bit of hamburger with your ketchup tonight?" Seriously.

I suppose we get used to our traditions being somewhat ... traditional. The bacon and stuff with latkes made me laugh, because it's so far off the mark of the traditional latke that it just seemed kinda cool. It didn't really alter the tradition for me because I knew I'd never eat it anyway. But the ketchup, now that's a horse of a different color. It's very close to being a possibility, and totally alters an old tradition, and it made me say, "whoa!" But with a smile! I mean, how seriously can I take such a thing?

BTW -- I would never have considered eating potato latkes for breakfast! But now that you mentioned it, I think it's a great idea. In fact I'll probably make some this weekend. (No promises about the ketchup, though. :wink: )

And Jim Dixon -- the wince was involuntary, and I didn't mean it as a criticism in any way, it was more of a joke on myself. You know WAY too much about food for me to criticize you! I've printed out plenty of your stuff (not just recipes), and have learned tons from it. So I'll let the ketchup slide, okay? :smile:

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QUOTE (Steve Plotnicki @ Dec 2 2002, 02:49 PM)

Jim - If you have thre time and the inclination to do so, can you tell us the difference between a country goy and a city goy?

Well, only one featured in a John Denver song.                  

Steve....I grew up in Roseburg, Oregon, where my only contact with anything Jewish was reading Exodus. At age 15 we moved to the more cosmopolitan Eugene, where I fell in with a few Jewish kids who's parents were at the U of O. But I was in my mid-20s and living in metropolitan Portland before I attended a seder or actually saw a menorah. So being a self-described 'country goy' is my attempt at relating my own naivete about all things Jewish. My stepsons are Jewish by birth (their greatgrandfather was a Russian cantor, their grandfather a well-known radical and member of the ACP, their father a red-diaper baby who spent part of his childhood in Moscow) and provide me with a glimpse into their cultural experiences.

Matthew...I've been trying to come up with a good line to rhyme with "latkes on the griddle."

Cakewalk...no offense taken. Reagan may have set social policy in America back a few decades, but I think he had something with that "ketchup is a vegetable" idea.

One night we were eating burgers at Higgins (one of the best burgers anywhere) with the chef of Portland's best Italian restaurants. It might've been the beer talking, but she suddenly blurted out, "I love ketchup."

I couoldn't agree more.


olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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After reading all these posts I had to add that I make lots of latkes every year and I make them ahead a freeze them,first on a cookie sheet, then into large ziplocks. I reheat in a 400 degree oven and watch them like a hawk. It is much easier for me since I could never keep up with the group no matter how many electric fry pans I used. I use electric frypans for even heat,by the way. You can even take these to your child's school and make these as a treat. I did this for years,running to the school hefore the grated potatoes turned brown. What we do for love...

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Ok, so after reading this thread, I had to try my hand at some latkes last night. Actually, I cannot call them latkes because I adulterated them. I grated on large potato, 1/4 of large onion, squeezed out water. Added one egg, approx. 3 tbsp of flour, tsp horseradish, salt, and pepper. Combined, formed into small cakes and dropped into hot oil.

These things were awesome, but what most struck me was how far this will stretch a potato. I must have got 7 sizeable potato cakes from this one potato. More than I could eat in a sitting anyway.

I did not have any sour cream or applesauce, so I consumed mine with ramikens of blue cheese dressing and Louisiana Hot Sauce. Buffalo Rostis!

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A typical rosti is probably going to be thinner and of greater diameter. I admit to using a pinch of flour to help bind my rostis, but that's probably not authentic. I was just thinking that since I can make rostis, I should try making latkas. As a change from dried out cornbread :unsure: .

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Is there any significant difference between latkes and rostis, other than the inclusion of onions in the former?  Can't see any from reading this thread.

Rosti's are made by frying grated boiled potatoes w/ butter & oil into 1 large pancake, and as far as I can tell from looking at recipes latkes seem to be made only with grated raw potatoes? I want to try making latkes, too.

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Latke vs Hamentash: A Materialist-Feminist Analysis

byRobin Leidner

University of Pennsylvania

Department of Sociology


A note to the reader: This paper came to me from Australia via Toronto; Prof. Leidner has kindly agreed to its publication in these pages. While I have not edited the text (other than the addition of headings, and the division of some paragraphs for ease of reading on your screen), the html and all hypertextual annotations and asides were authored by me.

As Prof. Leidner informed me, while this paper was presented as a response to that of Prof. Shapiro, both are part of the annals of a venerable tradition of debate on this important issue.



In a highly provocative paper entitled "Latke vs. Hamantash: A Feminist Critique," Professor Judith Shapiro made an invaluable contribution to scholarship by bringing the insights of feminist and postmodern theory to bear on the interpretation of Jewish foodstuffs. It is surely no coincidence that shortly after the appearance of this paper, Professor Shapiro, who had been serving as provost of a provincial women's college in an obscure Philadelphia suburb, was chosen to become president of Barnard College in New York.

The usefulness of this learned, stimulating, highly original paper is hampered only by its complete wrong-headedness, a shortcoming that I will address tonight. This forum is an ideal setting for a frank reappraisal, since Professor Shapiro's departure from the vicinity allows us to focus on her faulty logic and inadequate methodology without fear of contradiction.

To summarize briefly an account that is richly nuanced (in fact, often incomprehensibly convoluted), Shapiro, an anthropologist, begins with the conjecture that the circles and triangles conventionally used to designate women and men on kinship charts are in fact iconic representations of latkes and hamentashen.

She argues, "(I)t is ultimately impossible for us to know whether, in the last analysis, the latke and hamantash should be considered as semiotic representations of the two sexes or whether the two sexes should be seen as semiotic representations of latkes and hamantashen. What is not, however, in doubt, is the association of latkes with the female principle and hamantashen with the male" (Shapiro 1990:3).

What is it that leads Shapiro to argue as a feminist that latkes, which have so clearly been part of the oppressive apparatus upholding the most retrograde patriarchal elements of Judaism, are a more appropriate symbol for women than hamentashen? I will argue that such an interpretation is possible only if analysis remains at a symbolic level which so decontextualizes the subject that there is no trace of the lived experience of the relevant social actors.

In short, I will argue that this mistaken assertion is a product of the pernicious postmodern mishigoss that has, in discipline after discipline, tempted scholars to abandon their investigations of the physical and social world in order to concentrate on a world of discourse that takes on greater importance, indeed greater reality. In the interests of defending sociology from the forces that have dessicated anthropology, history, literary criticism, cultural studies, and other pretenders to knowledge of the social world, I will argue that a clear understanding of the gendered implications of latkes and hamentashen must rest on careful empirical research.

I will demonstrate, I think definitively, that attention to culturo-linguistic-symbolic content is illuminating only in conjunction with rigorous investigation of the material conditions under which the objects of analysis are produced and consumed.

I have conducted extensive participant observation, over many years, of the production and consumption of both latkes and hamentashen. Based on my fieldwork and on in-depth interviews with non-market-oriented Jewish cooks, I will demonstrate that when one takes into account the gendered division of labor, family power dynamics, norms of sociability, and the structural conditions of participation in a late-capitalist, post-industrial economy, the hamentash is far more suitable for incorporation into the feminist vision of an egalitarian and nonoppressive future than is the latke.

The Latke

Let us turn first to the latke. The material conditions of latke production are stressed in the best-known analysis of the latke as a factor in the oppression of women, Emma Goldman's famous "blood of our foremothers" speech (with which I assume many of you are familiar). In it, she asked, "How much of the very blood of our foremothers' knuckles have we battened and fattened on every Chanukah, for surely their lifeblood is invariably an ingredient in our latkes? Could oceans of applesauce or mountains of sour cream ever fully mask the salty taste of the tears of our onion-grating sisters?" More than fifty years after Goldman's death, these questions still haunt us.

Time limits prevent me from quoting many of the moving accounts that my interviewees provided of what their Chanukahs are like. But put yourself in the position of these women (for it is of course women who produce the latkes in the great majority of households). The children are over-excited and rambunctious. Perhaps guests are expected. Much of the holiday meal has already been prepared, but the cook feels obliged to provide fresh latkes, not reheated ones.

After peeling, grating, frying batch after batch in spitting oil, the cook is exhausted and sweaty, her hair hangs in greasy clumps, her knuckles are scraped raw, her arms sting from the continual splatters of oil. When at last a heaping plate of latkes is ready, she brings it to the table, where every one is snatched up immediately. Stoically, she heads back to the stove to begin frying the next batch.

From the dining room drift peals of laughter, snatches of conversation, the splat of applesauce, and shouted inquiries about when the latkes will be ready. Excluded from the community, she spends most of the holiday meal on her feet in front of the hot stove, forcing a gay smile during her brief forays to deliver latkes. Her labor does not end with the meal, for back in the kitchen potato peels are overflowing the garbage can, numerous bowls and utensils wear a thick layer of potato mixture, now disagreeably blackened, and of course a sticky film of grease covers all exposed surfaces. Despite her best efforts, the smell, having permeated the drapes, will linger for weeks.

No doubt many of you are now thinking of the same thing: Cuisinarts. Some critics, including Professor Goldfrank of U.C. Santa Cruz, have argued that while latke production may indeed have been oppressive in Goldman's day, the food processor has so eased the work of latke preparation that at present its demands are negligible (personal communication).

It is certainly true that some of the more dangerous and painful labor involved in latke production has been reduced by technological developments, and survey research by Tsimmes and Tsurris (1993) confirms that Cuisinart ownership is a significant factor in explaining variation in the degree of resentment among latke-makers. Yet I maintain that given the physical, social, and emotional demands of peeling and frying that remain, only those who benefit from the subordination of women, or those bamboozled by a deeply-entrenched system of mystification, could argue, as does Goldfrank, that latke-production is now "a piece of cake."

In fact, the impact of the Cuisinart on women's position in Judaism has been quite limited. Following the familiar pattern of many so-called household conveniences, the Cuisinart has increased demand for latkes and generated increasingly fussy standards of latke texture without changing the power dynamics that are really at issue here. (I don't think I need even elaborate on the classism of commentators who overlook the reality that access to Cuisinarts is highly class-stratified.) Another modern development, the marketing of prepared latke mixes, has had even less effect on the overall picture. Such mixes are their own punishment, and judging from my sample they are never purchased more than once.

Content analysis of my interview data shows that a few themes dominate the cooks' accounts: physical suffering; pressure; and social isolation.

The Hamentash

The picture for hamentashen is very different. First, for many of my informants, the home has ceased to be a site of hamentash production. Such households calculate that the cost of the time, effort, and skill of family members outweighs the cost of store-bought hamentashen and the diminished quality of the product. For in the capitalist marketplace, the hamentash is reduced to a commodity like any other, and we should not be surprised that capitalist competition has led to the year-round availability of neo-hamentashen with alien fillings, their brightly-colored jams signaling their debasement to the level of the workaday Danish.

Nevertheless, many of my respondents and their families do reserve hamentash consumption for Purim, and some apparently deem mass-produced commercial hamentashen an acceptable substitute for the infinitely more delicious and not very hard to make home-baked hamentashen that can be produced with my no-yeast recipe (which is available upon request). These respondents do not view Purim as an oppressive institution, but they are relatively low in positive affect as well.

Certainly the happiest families are those where hamentash production takes place at home, usually as a collective enterprise. A special time is set aside for unhurried hamentash activity, in contrast to the high-pressure time crunch we saw in the case of latkes. In general, several family members cooperate in the production of hamentashen; even very small children enjoy taking a turn rolling out dough, plopping spoonfuls of filling onto the circles, and pressing corners to form triangles.

Some disagreeable work has been marketized, because in this case, feminist pressure led to the development of a substitute for home-made fillings that is not only acceptable, but preferable: prune butter, or Lekvar, purchased by the jar. The scene is one of mutual enjoyment as children, their faces smeared with Lekvar, help cut out circles of dough; older members of the household guide their efforts and praise their helpfulness; participants are often moved to sing; a wonderful aroma fills the home.

Everyone is permitted to sample the hamentashen as they emerge from the oven, newly-plump and warm. It is true that flour is all over everything, but clean-up is eased by the cheerful cooperation of older children and adults.

The themes that emerged most often from my interviews about hamentashen were: fun, nostalgia, and togetherness.


For women, it is clear that hamentashen offer far more scope for self-realization, egalitarian relations, and social progress than do latkes. The liberating potential of the hamentash is especially great because Purim provides a clear model of a feminist heroine in the megillah. I speak, of course, of Vashti, who bravely resisted patriarchal authority (here reinforced by state power) and refused to accept the powerless position of the trophy wife exhibited as an ego-boosting tchotchke at her husband's command. I don't think we need go as far as some critics do in describing Esther as a "male-identified scab" in order to acknowledge that it is Vashti whose independence, personal integrity, and brave refusal to be judged according to male standards are most worthy of celebration.

Could latkes ever be a force for the empowerment of women? My most recent field notes suggest that, given the right objective conditions, latkes could provoke in the masses of Jewish women the kind of revolutionary fervor that they triggered in Emma Goldman. It is those years when women have to start in with the latkes before they've recovered from Thanksgiving, years like this one, that have the most revolutionary potential.

In times like these, many women pierce the false consciousness that has contributed to their subordination; indeed, much of the language of the transcripts from this year's interviews is unprintable. We must start laying the groundwork now if we are to be ready the next year Chanukah falls early, ready for revolutionary change brought about by the determined unity of Jewish women and the support of enlightened men. The revolution need not abolish latkes, but must abolish the gendering of burdensome holiday labor so that it may be shared.

Goldfrank has suggested that interfaith marriage might help create a vanguard for this movement (personal communication). Are Jewish husbands of non-Jewish wives taking responsibility for their own latkes? If so, could that provoke a generalized loosening of gendered latke norms? I plan to pursue these questions in future research.

Some critics have suggested that my unflinching analysis of the material conditions of latke production could play into the hands of the virulent anti-Semitic fringe groups in Idaho, which might interpret my arguments as part of a larger Jewish conspiracy to control their state's potato-based economy. While I believe that we need not stifle debate within the Jewish community out of fear, I do take this concern seriously. I have been careful to avoid language that could be construed as tuberphobic, and trust that our community can sustain a candid and vigorous discussion that will avoid descending to ad potatum attacks.

Just as I do not reject the potato, I do not object to the inclusion of some analysis of the symbolic content of latkes and hamentashen in determining their feminist potential. Had Shapiro grounded her cultural analysis in investigation of the everyday realities of production and consumption, she surely would not have come so close to accepting an essentialist view of gender, as she appears to in speaking of a purported "association of latkes with the female principle and hamantashen with the male."

Feminist scholars have demonstrated again and again that gender categories are malleable and that variation within genders is virtually always greater than average differences between genders. The hamentash is a perfect representation of this more flexible, culturally variable, view of gender. For while the hamentash begins as a circle (which Shapiro tags female), it becomes a triangle through conscious human intervention, without ever losing its qualities of circularity.

The hamentash is an inspiring demonstration of the possibilities of overcoming essentialist dualisms: without the circle, there could be no triangle, and without the triangle, the circle would be empty. The hamentash provides a vision of human possibility that similarly integrates the strengths that have been attributed to men and women. I leave you with the hope that some day we all can achieve that blending of circle and triangle, the synthesis of smoothness and crunch, the simultaneous embodiment of openness and fullness that we find in the hamentash.


Latke vs Hamentash: Notes

Latke (pl. Latkes) is a potato pancake which, though smaller than some, usually approximates roundness in its appearance

Hamentash (pl. Hamentashen) is a triangular shaped pastry

The reader will note that Prof. Shapiro had chosen a different spelling, viz. Hamantash(en). This is not a typographical error; rather it reflects the inner dualism of this delicacy. The filling in the Hamentash is usually (as Prof. Leidner describes elsewhere in this paper) 'Levkar', also known as prune butter. However, it is possible that Prof. Shapiro ascribes to the 'mun' or honey and poppy-seed school of filling; hence the different spelling. But regardless of the filling, either spelling is correct


Sometimes spelled 'meshigas' but it probably depends on where your grandparents might have learned to speak Yiddish; regardless of spelling, its meaning imports a sense of 'wrong-headedness' on the part of the perpetrator


In deference to the citizenship of the author, I have left such 'Americanisms' intact. However, I am certain that if this paper had been written by a Canadian professor, the spelling would have been 'labour'


Grated onion is a key ingredient of any latke. Although my former husband continues to adhere to the meshuggenah (see above) belief that latkes should be made without onions


Oil, of course, is the traditional mode of cooking latkes and symbolizes the oil which burned in the Temple for eight days when there was only enough for one day. My former husband believes that latkes should be fried in butter. The reader will no doubt understand why we are now happily divorced


Had these researchers chosen to 'anglicize' their names, they would probably be referred to as Carrots and Trouble; Tsimmes and Tsurris certainly has more cachet and is more in keeping with their field of expertise


Literally translated 'tchotchke' (or, as it is sometimes transliterated, 'tzatzke'), means bauble and is often used to refer to small ornamental objects


Since Canadian Thanksgiving falls on the second Monday in October, it is unlikely that Canadian latke producing women will be as deeply affected by this timing as their U.S. sisters; hence they may be less likely to respond to this call to arms

Edited by La Niña (log)
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Note to self: do not give any more large donations to liberal arts colleges.

Jason Perlow, Co-Founder eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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