I stared during Shelsky’s honeyed potato and celeriac pancake with a craving that was literally insatiable. Ironically, we was banned from ever indeed tasting this latke, a tasty hallmark of a Jewish holiday of Chanukah, since of my tact of Judaism.
I’m kosher, that means we don’t eat any forms of beef that haven’t been killed in a specific way. It’s a protocol we follow some-more out of family tradition than eremite faith and one that we was even some-more tempted to mangle after Shelsky’s was voted a People’s Choice for best latke during a 6th Annual Latke Festival during a Sylvia Center in New York City.
Shelsky’s pleasing latke was not usually layered with a house-made chopped liver that we am flattering certain came from beef that wasn’t slaughtered in kosher fashion, it was also boiled in schmaltz, a fat rendered from a chicken, goose, or duck. In box we couldn’t tell from a delightfully clunky-sounding Yiddish name, schmaltz is an Eastern European Jewish food staple. Yet, we couldn’t indeed eat any latke baked in it—of that there were many—because roughly zero of them came from kosher restaurants.
Schmaltz was a slightest of (what we assume were) a tasty violations of a laws of kashrut Monday night. The 24 opposite restaurants and vendors submitting their versions of latkes were all too fervent to drop into traif (non kosher) ingredients. Veselka layered a latke with pig goulash, and Toloache combined beef brief rib chorizo. While Joseph Leonard combined a nice, fat cut of a bratwurst on tip of a “Tailgate Sunday” latke, a cook regulating their mount was good adequate to make me a latke yet a brat, yet surfaced with their tasty drink mustard and crispy onions, instead.
Many of a booths were used to modifying their latkes a little, that we had rather expected. After all, many of a latkes came from a trendiest restaurants in a city, and zero says hip like a rare food restriction.
Still, when we saw a menu of latkes a opposite vendors offered, we was a bit taken aback. At an eventuality about traditionally Jewish food, we primarily approaching a tiny some-more recognition of kosher restrictions.
However, on second thought, it indeed finished a lot of sense. For one, a eventuality wasn’t dependent with a Jewish group. Secondly, many American Jews aren’t kosher. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study 28 percent of Jews ages 18 to 49 keep kosher inside their homes. That’s interestingly incomparable than a 16 percent of Jews over age 50 who keep kosher, yet it’s still a comparatively tiny number.
As we am in many restaurants, we was beholden for any modifications that could be made. With some, though, there was zero to be finished to assistance a kosher gal out. The best and funniest kosher delinquent was Egg, that finished a latke out of nation ham and had a illusory pointer warning “CARFUL! TRAIF!” Mokbar’s pig potato pancake was a tighten second.
Some of these latkes we did not bewail flitting up, generally after witnessing other’s reactions. After perplexing a potato pancake BBQ steep slider, my colleague, Andrew Goldberg, concluded, “B.B. King’s should not be creation latkes.”
I walked into a Latke Festival with during slightest a few preconceived notions about what a latke should be, yet even some-more about who would be meddlesome in eating a potato pancakes. Apparently, many people peaceful to bombard out $65-$100 to attend a latke festival aren’t kosher—and maybe not indeed Jewish. we struck adult a review with a male in his fifties or sixties who had a Brooklyn accent. “We’re in a room full of shikses that substantially don’t even know what they’re eating,” he told me.
I frequency spoke to each patron, yet there might have been some outcome to his assessment. An Australian lady in her late twenties told me she was an “honorary Jew” with no tangible Jewish heritage. She came to a Latke Festival since she desired any plate so formed around a potato. Perhaps carrying enjoyed a open bar, she added, “I never knew a Jew in Australia, and when we changed to New York, everybody we knew was Jewish!”
Most of a vendors were, like this woman, titular Jews for a night, not that Jews have a corner on potato pancakes. My colleague from Poland told me about plackis, that are radically a same thing as latkes yet a Chanukah story. Esther Choi of Mokbar pronounced she has finished Korean potato pancakes called gam ja jun, and Charles Rodriguez of PRINT. Restaurant described latkes as “Mini crush browns,” that he thinks is because they are so zodiacally beloved. “I consider as a ubiquity of French fries prove, everybody loves a crispy boiled potato,” he pronounced in an email.
Potato pancakes weren’t creatively a normal Chanukah food. The initial latke seemed around a 14th Century, according to dear and recently defunct Jewish food historian Gil Marks, yet it was indeed finished from cheese curds. It was combined to commemorate a story of Judith, a Jewish lady who plied a Babylonian ubiquitous with tainted cheese and lots of drink to get him dipsomaniac adequate to cut off his conduct and save her people (it’s a tiny difficult how it got meshed with a Chanukah story about a Maccabees). With a use of dairy came some complications, though. Ashkenazi Jews had difficulty anticipating oil and began regulating schmaltz as a substitute. Mixing beef and dairy is a kosher rule-breaker, so they switched a cheese for potatoes.
However, that switch to potatoes occurred around a 19th Century. Since many American Jews in 2014 aren’t utterly endangered about kosher laws, a Latke Festival offerings substantially weren’t a problem for many of a attendees. The immeasurable infancy of American Jews would not consider twice about satirical into Rodriguez’s “mini crush browns,” that won a judge’s prize. PRINT. Restaurant nabbed tip honors with what it named an Okinawa Latke: Japanese Sweet Potato Crispy Chestnut Latke in Duck Fat with Miso Créme Fraiche Yuzu. It common a judge’s esteem with Mae Mae Café, that submitted a latke with churned crème fraiche, preserved Katchkie plantation ginger, and cardamom apple bake.
These gastronomical twists and inversions weren’t a exception; normal potato pancakes with green cream or apple salsa were. Tres Carnes offering a hazed poblano latke with 16-hour Texas smoked brisket, and a Sylvia Center, that hosted a event, served a masala latke with raita and Indian pickles. The Plaza Hotel baked a fancy-pants latke with red drink braised oxtail, horseradish sunchoke cream, and crispy kale. Personally, we was blown divided with a creativity, even if we couldn’t suffer it myself. To take a cliché, they were a feast for a eyes.
However, a some-more innovative latkes weren’t indispensably my favorite, during slightest utterly taste-wise. Granted, we mostly attempted these in moderated forms, so we wasn’t removing a full effect. Still, we found myself similar with a comparison lady who saw a room as a sea of gentiles. He opined that these latkes weren’t like a ones his bubbe finished simply with applesauce. “Overdressed and overproduced” is how he described a ubiquitous selections.
And we mostly concurred. My favorite latkes were a no-frills Fairway supermarket’s inch-thick monsters with a normal trappings served during a festival or ones from Ben’s Deli, a kosher Queens landmark. A slight difference was a latke layered with lox and sable. Taking a punch out of it finished me feel like we was during a family bris… in a good, sentimental way.
Perhaps a many Jewish partial of a 6th Annual Latke Festival was that a food went way faster than a liquor. The bar remained open good after a latke stations ran out or sealed adult for a evening, yet a lines for drink never rivaled a ones for any of a food.
Yet, there was something utterly wise about how un-Jewish a Latke Festival was. Chanukah itself is a comparatively teenager holiday on a eremite Jewish calendar. It grew in recognition during a 20th Century when assimilating Jews wanted their kids to have something that could reason H2O with Christmas (before they satisfied candy canes and ridicule fat group with gifts were unbeatable). The approach Chanukah is distinguished currently in America comes with many elements that are not Jewish, or during slightest not traditionally religious: food, presents, RugRats radio specials.
Besides, to counterfeit a famous Levy’s bread slogan: You don’t have to be Jewish to adore latkes.