Dear Mom,

I just ate the best sufganiya (donut) of my life. It was warm…crisp and golden on the outside and doughy on the inside…filled with salty caramel cream.

Chanukah in Israel was full of lights, songs, sticky fingers and children with dusty, sugar-covered faces. I love that my religion commands the indulgence of deep-fried sugary foods as a mitzvah.

During the holiday, I wandered the streets of Jerusalem with friends most evenings to see lights. Menorahs in glass boxes are on display everywhere, lighting up dark, narrow alleys. People keep them in glass boxes outside of their homes and stacked on top of ledges. Menorahs are displayed similarly to lit-up reindeer in the US, but with more spiritual significance. Children and families gather around them to sing, pray and dance. The Chanukah streets are romantic and special.

But my gut has just about had it. At home, I’m used to two or three Chanukah parties—two or three servings of latkes max. And doughnuts aren’t part our tradition.

Here, Chanukah is celebrated the whole of each of its eight days. I swear the streets smell like a deep-fryer! At least in Israel I can avoid the Christmas cookie spell that invades American offices and schools at this time of year.

As the Chanukah spirit fades away, I plan to get back into healthy eating habits. One of our cousins here, Tan, made the best, most fresh-tasting cold rice salad for her Chanukah party last week. She served it with latkes to cut the yucky feeling of too much grease (only to successfully trick my stomach into thinking it could handle one more latke).

I snagged the recipe from her and made it for friends. It was a huge hit, and I plan to make more of it as I attempt to post-Chanukah cleanse by avoiding deep-fried foods. With so many salad staples disappearing during the winter months, this is a great way to incorporate light, fresh in-season ingredients into a hardy winter salad. It’s perfect next to a warm bowl of soup… or latkes.

Enjoy,

Shaina