The History of Hanukkah
by Zehorit Heilicher, Tastemaker in Residence
There is an old saying that Jewish holidays can be summed up by “They tried to kill us, we won, now let’s eat!” Well, true or not, Hanukkah does seem to fit the bill. The ancient Greeks held Judea in a tight fist, trying to squash Jewish observance and culture. Following a three-year revolt, against all odds – the small Jewish army, led by Judah Maccabee, won. So, that covers the parts of “they tried to kill us” and “we won”. How about “let’s eat”? As it turns out, the Hanukkah story includes the miracle of oil: how the Jerusalem holy temple’s candelabra was lit for 8 days by a small amount of sanctified oil, which should have lasted for a single day. From there, a culinary tradition evolved of fried foods for Hanukkah. Not that I am complaining…
(For more on the history of Hanukkah see HERE)
The most famous fried food of Hanukkah is latkes: potato pancakes, thin and crispy. An Israeli fried item that is getting exposure and fame recently is Sufganiot: Jelly doughnuts. Many elaborate variations show up at bakeries in Israel as soon as fall hits in anticipation of the holiday. I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where my mom always made her own from scratch. Puffy, pillowy and drenched in powdered sugar, the memory of those Sufganiot is pure comfort. Try your hand at making your own and you will create your own memories.