This may come as a shock, but Hanukkah isn't a real big deal in northern Minnesota. We're all too busy being Lutheran and Scandinavian this time of year to bother with dreidels, latkes, and menorahs. Unless you're at my house.
Growing up in the great Northwoods, I swear sometimes it felt like we were the only non-Scandinavian household in a 250 mile radius. (We're Irish and English). And for whatever reason, my mother opted not to educate my brother and I about Scandinavian Christmas traditions like St. Lucia, lefse and lutefisk, but instead about the Jewish Celebration of Light: Hanukkah.
We read books like The Chanukkah Guest, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, and Stories for Children. We attempted to make latkes, although that project always ended with the house filling with smoke and the fire alarm going off. There was no menorah, no blessings, just an acknowledge that any chance to celebrate light in these dark December days is a very good thing.
I've been reading Sarah's Key (which is excellent) this past week which discusses the French roundup of Jews in 1942 in compliance with the Nazis. When I noticed that Hanukkah was right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to try out those potato latkes again. Last night I gave it a whirl and surprised myself with successful (and delicious) results.
Here's how to make potato latkes. (I got this potato latke recipe out of Better Homes and Garden's Heritage Cookbook.)
Step 1: Place your smoke detector within easy reach. Surprisingly, ours didn't go off last night when I was making these, which is quite shocking because it likes to go off when we make toast. Anyway . . .
Step 2: Place in a bowl:
3 cups shredded bakers potatoes
1/2 cup minced onion (it said to shred these, which probably worked with a food processor, but I found it much faster just to mince these.)
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt.
Mix together and drop in tablespoons on a hot, greased griddle. Flatten out the latkes slightly with the back of a spoon.
Voila: latkes. Lots of recipes tell you top these with applesauce but I have distinct memories of not liking that much as a child. Personally, I'd recommend going the savory route: sour cream, cheese, etc. etc.
While I made the latkes, Andy roasted pieces of venison over the wood stove.To me, the holidays is all about mixing up traditions, Christmas pageants and potato latkes, or in this case: Northwoods Barbarianism and Judaism.