Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega searches old newspapers to learn more about Hanukkah celebrations and find recipes for latkes and other treats. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “”
Holidays are often religious and family events. For many people, holidays also mean food. Holiday meals are often born of tradition, either via family or society, with recipes handed down through the generations. Family members look forward to eating these special-occasion foods year after year.
What foods do you look forward to during Hanukkah? Chances are potato latkes topped with sour cream or applesauce is a favorite for you this time of the year.
This year, Hanukkah begins on 24 December 2016 and ends on 1 January 2017. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication. It celebrates the miracle that occurred during the rededication of the temple by the Maccabees in 165 BC. With only enough oil to light the temple’s menorah for one day, the menorah stayed lit for eight days. In honor of that miracle, Hanukkah is observed for eight days and nights starting on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar.
Hanukkah usually occurs sometime between late November and late December. During the holiday, one candle on the menorah is lit each night for a total of eight candles (the ninth candle, the shamash, found in the middle of the menorah, is used to light the other candles).
You can learn more about Hanukkah from this 1940 newspaper article.
Historical newspapers provide us with many opportunities to understand our family’s life. From reports on holiday gatherings to traditional recipes, newspaper articles help you find facts about your ancestor’s life and learn what life was like during their time and place. You can learn more about Hanukkah celebrations in GenealogyBank’s Jewish American Newspaper Archives.
Families Sharing Latkes
One of my friends held a latke party for Hanukkah every year. She spent the day frying up dozens upon dozens of potato latkes and then invited everyone to come over and eat latkes, play with dreidels, share family traditions, and enjoy each other’s company.
For those who are not familiar with the food and activities of Hanukkah, this 1958 newspaper article shares a family’s latke-making activities. This article features the Penn family of Richmond, Virginia. Included are photos of Mrs. Sam Penn cooking latkes and assisting daughter Joy with lighting the menorah. Interestingly, the newspaper reporter comments that latkes are made from potato but “creamed canned corn” can be substituted.
A recipe for potato latkes is included, with the suggestion of topping them with sour cream, strawberry jam, applesauce, or cinnamon and sugar.
Note: For those of you interested in cooking, all the recipes mentioned in the newspaper articles below are enlarged and reprinted at the end of this blog article.
Potato Latkes and More
During Hanukkah, fried foods like latkes and doughnuts play an important part in the observance. Latkes are typically potato pancakes (though they can be made out of other ingredients) that you can top with sour cream or apple sauce. I love latkes and newspapers provide recipes that can be used at this year’s Hanukkah gatherings.
I’ve had my share of potato latkes, but a search through newspaper food columns finds recipes for latkes made out of other ingredients such as dairy and vegetables. This 1969 newspaper article includes recipes for cheese and raisin latkes. The cheese in this recipe is cottage cheese, but I’ve also seen cheese latke recipes calling for ricotta cheese.
Besides eating fried foods, eating cheese is also associated with Hanukkah. It stems from the story of the heroine Judith who saved her village from the invading Assyrian army by feeding the General salty cheese and lots of wine to quench his thirst – and then when he was passed out she took off his head with his own sword.*
This 1988 newspaper article provides great step-by-step instructions for not only making potato latkes, but also cheese latkes made of ricotta, Sufganiyot (Israeli doughnuts), and dreidel butter cookies. Potato latkes (sometimes referred to as potato pancakes) are a great edition to any meal, including breakfast.
What other types of latkes could you make? When I looked online I found recipe articles for 20+ different types of latkes. If you’re into experimenting with food, you can find various latke recipes in the newspaper. For example, here’s a recipe for Pineapple Latkes.
What Are You Serving for Hanukkah?
If you’re celebrating Hanukkah this year, are you having a latke party for 50 or hosting a small family dinner? Either way, the newspaper provides some great recipes for latkes, doughnuts, and other Hanukkah favorites.
* “Discover the History of Latkes During Hanukkah,” PBS Food (http://www.pbs.org/food/features/history-of-latkes/: accessed 9 December 2016.)