Dietribes: Latke Love


"¢ The word latke derives from the Yiddish .... "latke"! Although other claims suggest it derives from the Old Russian oladka, and as such is a diminutive of olad'ya, from Greek eladia, the plural of eladion, which means "a little oily thing," coming from elaia, which means "olive." Got it?

"¢Â Though we most prominently associate latkes with potatoes (most people call them "potato pancakes"), it wasn't always so. "The Maccabee soldiers ate latkes made from cheese, vegetables, or fruits which were brought to them on the battlefields. However, potatoes weren't available until the 16th century."

"¢Â The most popular way to prepare latkes is to fry them in oil — commemorating the oil that miraculously provided light for eight days. The secret to a great latke, according to Epicurious, is: " The starchier the potato, the crisper the latke. As for varieties, baking potatoes are the starchiest, Yukon Golds next, and boiling potatoes have the least starch."

"¢Â Plenty of people have their opinion of how to make tasty latkes, including Carl Bernstein. And Leslye Louis of Missouri gained some fame for making latkes out of 10 chopped White Castle burgers, winning their top prize in 2007.

"¢ Latkes aren't just for Hanukkah, though - apparently you can show your Latke love by ordering heart-shaped latkes for Valentine's day!

"¢Â What's a Dietribe without a food competition? In 2008 the National Potato Latke Eating Championship was won by "Furious" Pete Czerwinski, who set a new record by consuming 46 potato latkes (approx 7 pounds) in 8 Minutes.

"¢Â Who doesn't like latkes? Who cares! They won't be attending the Everyone Likes Latkes Party in Boston, at any rate. Seems we missed it this year, but perhaps we'll send a scout for next time. Any volunteers?

"¢Â For those not familiar with the Latke-Hamantash Debate ("which is better?"), it has a rich history and plenty of word play attached. It's definitely the tastiest protest and debate I've ever seen!

"¢Â Speaking of strife, not all latkes are happy latkes, as outlined in this children's book, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming. (It's not a horror story, he's just somewhat verklempt).

"¢Â I'll leave it to Latke Larry (voiced by Jerry Stiller) to finish us up. "Latke Larry, clad in a chef's hat, tzitzit dangling from his waist, rocks to and fro and sings (to the tune of "Rock of Ages"): 'Latke Larry comes to you, a friend to play with and fun to chew. I've got tales of Maccabees — oy — and plenty of calories.'" Read his story here.

"¢Â I can assure you guys this post has made me hungrier than most, how about you? Any special recipes to share? And put in your vote: sour cream or applesauce with your latkes?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.