Latkes may indeed be the end of me


Joseph De Leo, Anna Stockwell

These delicious fried patties are the bane of my existence.

Kieran Hines, Humor Editor

It all started weeks ago, when Mr Taylor assigned a Rosh Hashanah project for our Bible as Literature class. We were to research the Jewish holiday and make a traditional dish from that holiday. Sounds simple enough, right? 


It was to be the worst cooking experience of my life, even worse than that time I gave myself food poisoning on my birthday (a story for another time). My journey to make latkes was long, tedious, and worst of all: It wasn’t even kosher.

To get back to the story, we split up into groups, and each group was supposed to bring a different food. Our group decided to make latkes and a cinnamon sour cream apple cake (I would like to add that neither of those things are traditional Rosh Hashanah dishes. Latkes are traditional Hanukkah dishes, and I’m pretty sure the cake is only vaguely Jewish). 

It was decided that I would bring the latkes, Grace would bring the cake, and Shannon would bring her personality. 

One small problem: I have no clue how to make latkes. 

Fifteen seconds on Google images showed me that latkes are similar in appearance to hashbrowns and another fifteen seconds looking at a recipe from the New York Times told me that latkes are indeed very similar to hashbrowns in ingredients and preparation. 

Full with confidence that I could make latkes by the seat of my pants, and with the pseudo party not for another two weeks, I pushed the thought to a deep crevice of my mind.

It, like all thoughts the brain tries to ignore, didn’t remain hidden away. It bubbled up to the surface from time to time, much to the vexation of my beloved parents for they had to listen my nagging about the project and the latkes. 

My mother assured me that we had the ingredients at home, and my father seemed to be mildly irritated at the very thought of me dirtying up the kitchen. The two weeks passed by like a flash, and I was finally ready to begin the cooking process on the night before.

Before I continue, I must give some context about the dish I horribly botched that fateful night. Latkes are a traditional Jewish dish, which I hope you have gathered by now, that consist of potatoes and onions in a suitable proportion for them to likened to hashbrowns. 

Indeed, they are very similar. Both are grated and fried, but that’s where the similarity ends. Latkes are often described by people as “Jewish Pancakes”, and I would like to meet the person who first saw a latke and thought to themselves, “A pancake is the closest food I could relate the culinary essence of this dish to an audience unfamiliar with the source material,” so I could give them a gold star for bringing forth by far the dumbest layman explanation of a cultural food. 

Pancakes and Latkes are so dissimilar that I could write a whole article about all the things that are wrong with the “Jewish Pancake” narrative (And I might). Anyways, back to the latkes.

Latkes are coarsely shredded onions and potatoes, with flour, baking powder, and various spices added in. The process to make them is multi-stepped, involving multiple bowls and dirty looks from my dad as the the unclean dishes grow in number.

I was ready, but my dad wasn’t. He said,  “Before you even start cooking I want you to set up all the ingredients you’re going to use in this dish.” I then spend the next ten minutes chopping and laying out the potatoes and onions, mixing, in a bowl, the flour, baking powder, and spices, and setting aside another mixing bowl for later use. 

The recipe was too small for my class so I did a one-and-a-half sized batch. No big deal; all I had to do was multiply the quantities of the ingredients by 1.5. 

However, this is where my fatal flaw makes an entrance: a lack of focus. Me, in my infinite wisdom, accidentally added three times the amount of baking powder I was supposed to add to the dish. I courageously pushed onward, foolishly thinking that a fluffier latke is a better latke.

Next was the grating of the potatoes and onions. “Oh this must be the easiest part,” I hear you say, but dear reader, I assure you it was not easy in the slightest. It was a multiple step process: I had to grind a suitable amount of potatoes and onions to fill a small bowl, then I had to transfer the grated slop to a progressively more starch-soaked dishcloth.

After that, I had to bring the heavy-laden dishcloth over to the sink, following which I had to wring this poor dishrag out with all my might and hope that I got enough water out to fry the batter and not explode in my face. 

I then transferred the clumpy mass to the larger mixing bowl and continued. Each small bowl’s worth of potatoes and onions took around five minutes of straight grating, which was a herculean task in and of itself. 

The potatoes had a bad habit of sticking to the back of the grater I was using. The onions too were unpleasant to work with, falling apart along the layers as I grated them and releasing an assault upon my eyes so intense I had to rinse them out multiple times. This isn’t even mentioning the multiple cuts and scrapes my hands endured as a result of my hasty and desperate grating.

Continuing on to the next labor which I must complete, the flour mixture was added to the starch mass to finish the batter. I made the mistake of choosing a far too small bowl for mixing, and I had to make a concentrated effort to not spill the batter. 

Finally done with the hard part, I called my father into the kitchen to help me fry the latkes. He decided to fry them in coconut oil with olive oil added in. I regret to inform you that the frying process was boring and all together uneventful. The latkes ended up halfway between a hashbrown and a hushpuppy with an altogether rubbery texture. 

All in all, not too bad for my first time making latkes.