Four of out of five latke makers surveyed said lingering après-fry aromas have deterred or even prevented them from taking to the pan for the Chanukah holiday.
If you’ve ever felt even the least bit burned—or should I say splattered?—by the notion of churning out oil-laden offerings for the Festival of Lights, take heed. There’s more than one way to honor tradition and build on the indomitable spirit of the Maccabees. Don’t let the limitations of the urban kitchen or compromised ventilation systems shackle you. Follow these tips to relish the holiday, literally (recipe here).
1. Go out.
You don’t have to host. This is a great opportunity to invite the gang to your local deli or a greasy spoon. Latkes, applesauce, sour cream…no after-smell.
2. Order in.
If you do host a party, you don’t have to make the latkes. What’s the big sacrilege about ordering in? Perhaps this is your tradition, or one you’d like to create. Plus that would let you put more R&D time into dips, toppings, sauces and relishes.
3. Assemble an army.
If you do choose to make the latkes, you need not go it alone. Enlist friends and family to come early and take control of the potato shredding station (the grater need not be the enemy of The Great).
4. Embrace the olfactory.
If you do make latkes, come to terms—right now—with the fact that your kitchen, and perhaps other parts of your abode, will hold onto that aroma after the end of Kislev, and quite possibly 2014. Don’t forget to close the bedroom door. If you disconnect the smoke detector, make sure to reassemble it before the night is through.
5. Stage a taste test.
Invite folks to arrive with their own pre-made pancakes in tow. Start the sign-up early, and to limit the flake rate, warn guests that you’ll be making a printed menu in advance.
6. Diversify your noshings.
Break away from Ashkenazi convention (if you adhere to it in the first place). Latkes need not be made of pure potato. Experiment with sweet potato, chickpea seasoned with turmeric, apple fritters with ginger or with cousins of the latke, like Edgeh.
7. Put “The Mix” into the mix.
Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about—there’s no shame in it. Perhaps you’re yearning for an alternate texture. If, like me, you store a box of latke mix in your cupboard all year round, this could be the moment to give it a spin.
8. Mix and match.
Why limit yourself to one successful tactic on this list?
9. Get physical (ideally before you eat).
When it comes to entertainment, there’s also room to riff. Even the most tried-and-true dreidel enthusiasts can enjoy a change of pace. Invite your guests to be human tops in a feat of contact improv against hip-hop beats. For an out-of-the-box solution, consider Twister. Yes, that floor-mat game in which players plant a hand or foot on big colored dots. That makes for two kinds of going round and round: the arrow against the colored patches of the spinner and the limbs of players, turned in on themselves and around each other.
Top photo: Remembrances of a Chanukah party past. This triple-threat latke event, circa 1994, featured pancakes of the potato, sweet potato and boxed-mix variety. So what if we blew a fuse halfway through the party? [This soiree used techniques 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 described above].