Chanukkah Food

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I broke up with a boy over latkes.

We were going to see an Israeli film with his parents, a double date of sorts, and his mother, always keen to share her opinion gave her two cents as her son was filling her in on the Chanukkah celebration he attended at my house. My mother, who was a teacher at the time, had made the latkes earlier in the week and reheated them--something I still do to this day (though in my case, it's to save the house from continuously smelling like fried potatoes)--to buy herself more cooking time on the day of the actual celebration.

"Those aren't real latkes," his mother sniffed. "Real latkes are eaten right when they come out of the oil."

They seemed pretty real to me. Shredded potato, a little egg, a little oil in her special fryer. I'm not a connoisseur of latkes--in fact, I'm really not a fan and I will probably go through this season eating only my obligatory one--but I can't believe that the only way they become real is when they're consumed out of the fryer, as if they are like Pinocchio prior to the blue fairy arriving.

My boyfriend at the time said nothing--which was what he always did when his mother negatively commented on things. And having been on the receiving end of her commentary too many times that evening from my choice in shoe wear to the way I was wearing my hair, I smiled sweetly and said, "It's funny how I'd still rather have my mother's fake latkes over your attitude."

Her husband tried to apologize for her later in the evening, writing off her rudeness as a charming side of her personality, but the damage was done. I knew I could never spend the rest of my life with a man who didn't speak up when his mother found fault with every aspect of my being. It didn't matter how great he was if we were going to have to negotiate his locally-living mother every few days. I could flash forward to how she'd view my career choices, my parenting style.

As we were sitting in the theater waiting for the movie to begin, I was silently considering the fact that I needed to break up with him because it wasn't fair to know that I saw no future and still keep him around. A man named Josh got up to introduce the film. I knew him peripherally through my cousin and had always found him to be cute and funny. "I bet he treats his girlfriend so well. I bet they have the perfect relationship," I thought to myself.

Since I was already thinking about other men, I did the kind thing and broke up with my boyfriend that evening when he dropped me off at my apartment. I just couldn't stay with a man who wouldn't stick up for me and my mother when it came to her homemade latkes.

I think of this every Chanukkah because a few short months after that film, I ended up dating that guy Josh who introduced the film (who unbeknown to me, was in the process of breaking up with his girlfriend) and now, two kids, a house, and many memories later, we still make our latkes ahead of time and freeze them, reheating them each evening for the many Chanukkah dinners we hold during the week.

Though the food that is central to our Chanukkah celebration is sufganiyot, Israeli doughnuts. When I have time to make them, I make a baked version, humourously using some of the old fertility treatment syringes to inject the jam into the center (er...unused ones). When I don't have time, I pick up doughnuts from the store so we can have them this one time of the year. I also make a chocolate cherry bread that I serve at breakfast and a vegetarian matzo ball soup that I trot out for the numerous dinners we make to go along with the candle-lighting. We don't really partake in the gift-giving aspect of Chanukkah, but we love entertaining and having friends share in the candle-lighting.

If you're looking for new recipes to try this Chanukkah, Sweet and Savory Says it All offers up her spinach latkes. Though Momgrind's advice harshes on my mother and all people who pre-make the latkes, she offers up a great recipe for people wanting to go the traditional route. And, of course, no holiday season is complete without a latke-hamantaschen debate.

What are your favourite things to eat at Chanukkah?

Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of over 2000 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, Navigating the Land of If, is currently on bookshelves (May, 2009). She is the keeper of the IComLeavWe list and compiles the yearly Creme de la Creme.


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