Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
I’ve been joking this year that with Hanukkah starting on Christmas Eve, our holiday doesn’t have a chance to compete with the epic candy cane, hot chocolate, caroling, bright-cheery-Santa holiday festivities that dominate all of the seasonal parties and events. That’s why this year it’s even more important to give Hanukkah a competitive edge… by including an actual competition in our holiday celebrations.
No, not just the annual Driedel Game ( which gets pretty boring after awhile, right?) I’ve found that adding a trophy to any gathering really ups the level of engagement. This year for my office birthday party, I chose to engage my colleagues in a Pie Competition (the winner was a classic chocolate pie, but Most Creative went to the “French Fry” pie), and each year my husband and I host a Backyard BBQ competition that draws hundreds of hungry attendees and about a dozen serious competitors, vying for those glorious trophies.
For Hanukkah, we’ll be game-ifying the best of Southern traditions: Frying food.
Here’s some tips on how to encourage a little competition at your own Hanukkah party this year!
Build Excitement: The invitations go out encouraging guests to bring a latke batter of their choosing to fry out at the party and share with a group of hungry judges. I usually include a few informative links for those who have never had the pleasure of crafting the perfect latke. Then I encourage the creativity: Sweet potato latkes. Carrot and Beet Latkes. Hushpuppy Latkes. The options are endless when it comes to frying fritters.
Work on your prizes: Trophy toppers are easy to order online. My husband has a great talent for mounting them and getting official plates printed for each category. Or, scour a few thrift shops for some old trophies that you can spray paint and customize. The more the better! It’s the holidays! Everyone can get a trophy!
Set up the Stations: Because the weather is generally quite mild down South for Hanukkah, we are able to host this event outdoors. We set up a few different frying stations, and as competitors arrive they cook up their recipe in skillets and present them hot and fresh to whoever is standing close enough to the pan. We’ve found that a giant cast iron skillets on a camp stove matched with a few electric griddles works best.
Celebrate Enthusiastic Participation: Competition usually involves friendly banter, hype music, and a blow horn or two. I recommend playing the Hanukkah Project by Special Passenger Records to get spirits soaring. Alcoholic beverages are also helpful. At the end of the night the votes are tallied, the trophies presented, and our group remembers another holiday event where little Hanukkah can stand out among the punch bowls and twinkle lights.
Pronounced: KHAH-nuh-kah, also ha-new-KAH, an eight-day festival commemorating the Maccabees’ victory over the Greeks and subsequent rededication of the temple. Falls in the Hebrew month of Kislev, which usually corresponds with December.