Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Secret of Jewish Survival?

Could it be the requirement to eat fried foods in remembrance of the Chanukah miracle? Since I began living in Jewish time 10+ years ago, one of the things that changed for me was eating certain foods at certain times of year. Some of these foods are traditional for particular holidays (blintzes during Shavuot, for example or hamantaschen at Purim). Some things I've just associated with certain holidays all on my own. As Passover approaches, I always whip up a large batch of lemon curd to spread on my matzoh. The Torah, I'm fairly certain, says nothing on the subject of lemon curd but when faced with a week of matzoh we Jews do what we can to spice things up.

But Chanukah, falling as it does in the dark of winter, has so many lovely, high-calorie foods associated with it that one hardly knows where to start. Of course potato latkes slathered in sour cream are required for those of us with Ashkenazic blood. But honestly, a good latke is hard to find and every year I am subjected to some shameful specimens, some of which, it pains me to confess, have come from my own kitchen. Dairy foods are also traditional and I do make wonderful cheesecake and rugelach when I have patience.

Then there are doughnuts (aka bumuelos and sufganyot). Ah....doughnuts! Relegating this delicacy to once a year was hard but harder still was finding the perfect doughnut worth waiting for. I tried making my own in the cast iron skillet and ended up with dough that was torched on the outside, raw within, and my hands covered in oil burns. I resigned myself to a once yearly splurge at the local doughnut shop which was never as satisfying as one might hope.

Last year we were invited to a Chanukah party for all the kids in our synagogue's middle school. The hostess happily made doughnuts for the masses, enough to feed numerous growing boys and to send home bagged extras with all the guests. She was neither cranky nor exhausted by the end of this event, nor covered in burns, nor did her house reek of grease. She let me in on her secret: a deep fat fryer. She explained to me that this miracle of technology made the whole doughnut making process quite painless. She only used it once a year but she felt it was worth every penny. Needless to say I stewed around about this all year and went back and forth about the wisdom of such a purchase. As so often happens with me, good sense lost out completely to impulse and desire and I am now the proud owner of a Cool Daddy fryer. We are currently digesting the first batch of doughnuts and wondering why, exactly, deep-frying has such a bad reputation. I used an organic palm oil shortening, my house does not smell of grease, no burns, nada. Just a bunch of perfectly cooked doughnuts covered in cinnamon sugar and tasting just slightly of freshly grated nutmeg. Mmmmmmmm.......


Daniela said...

Did I mention you ruined one part of your holiday gift by renting the movie? I resisted watching and then afterwards I purchased 9 copies for friends.

Anyway, with your latest posting, all I can think of are donought (sp?) holes at Greek festival, mmmmmmmmmmm. yum.

Elizabeth said...

Loukoumades. Not doughnut holes, Daniela. :-)

Elizabeth, priest's wife at the Greek church, who is going to follow her own traditional Mennonite tradition of frying up some raisin fritters for New Years Eve (or day)