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!
When I was a kid, the crème de la crème of latkes were the frozen ones. And I don’t mean frozen fresh. I mean frozen, mass produced, throw in the oven, no-oil necessary latkes. I lived for them! There may not have been any actual potato or onion found in the recipe, but who cares? To me, their starchy burnt goodness was heaven.
I scoured the ovens for them at synagogue Chanukah parties (mine wasn’t the only family that saved time with frozen pre-formed potato pancakes). And there were also definitely times that I prayed to find them in the freezer section come June! To be honest, it was not until I was in high school that I learned that latkes came in any other form.
My best friend from high school had the great idea to make latkes for a class holiday party in eleventh grade. I thought, Great! We’ll pick up a bag, bake them up and impress all of our classmates with our diverse food culture!
She had other ideas.
We painstakingly hand cut dozens of potatoes and onions. Mixed in the eggs. Added the oil. Fried them up and packed them in Tupperware.
We brought them to class and no one would eat them.
They were oily and brown. They hadn’t transferred well from the frying pan to the plastic Tupperware to the classroom. Nothing about them appealed to our non-Jewish classmates — or to me, frankly. While they apparently looked great to my best friend, they lacked the desired amorphous texture that I had come to love growing up eating frozen latkes.
I never made another homemade latke. Now I buy frozen, bag latkes exclusively. They taste great and they are easy to bake; and, after all, I grew up with them. Even if you’re from a household where no one cooks, you can still have your own food traditions!