Potato latke, the holy grail of pancakes

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I’m thinking that it must seem odd to those not of the Jewish faith that people would indulge in a food that makes them bolt upright at 4 a.m. with paralyzing pains in the gut. But you have to understand: it’s tradition. Brisket consumed on the Jewish New Year can clog every artery in your heart before Yom Kippur, a week later. Matzo balls, eaten in great quantity over Passover, don’t leave the digestive tract for months. Sometimes they don’t leave at all, appearing on X-rays years later.

Some folks say the basis of all Jewish celebrations is, They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.

We eat when babies are born, when boys are circumcised and when people die. We eat to celebrate the harvest and to usher in the Sabbath. But we don’t have any salad days or cottage cheese festivals. More often there’s soup with dumplings and chicken with potato pudding and beef with fried onions.

My father, who’s 93, speaks fondly of his favorite boyhood sandwich: gribines (chicken fat) and fried onions on rye bread.

Latkes, eaten only on Hanukkah, fall into a particular category of foods that are fantastically delicious yet practically lethal. Often fatal. It is not widely know that the endoscope was invented by a Jewish doctor who discovered a connection between people who suffered mid-December indigestion and people who purchased menorahs.

A big problem is denial. People will not accept the fact that, at a certain age, they cannot properly digest fried potato pancakes. Among other ethnicities the problem arises with sausages, dumplings and barbecue.

My fellow baby boomers and I have entered the Pepcid years; more than two latkes is an invitation to all-night indigestion. Psychiatrists consider the consumption of more than four latkes by someone over 50 a suicidal gesture. Six latkes and they issue a do-not-resuscitate order.

I myself am not a statistic — yet. I ate two latkes and got sick but did not wind up in an emergency room. I walked the floors all night contemplating the suffering of my people.

This means, of course, that I have reached the penultimate stage of latke consumption. I have become a one-latke woman.

Copyright © 2012 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.

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