My holidays were great, how about yours? In addition to two fairly intensive and productive weeks at work, I feel that I acquitted myself admirably on the holiday party circuit, honoring all five of the season's major events: my Dad's birthday, Hanukkah, Christmas, Jewmas, and, of course, New Year's Eve -- the last of which served as a glittery exclamation point on a great year, and a great holiday season.
One of the season's highlights was a conversation I had with another journalist at a Hanukkah party early in the party season. After confessing to this woman, who I had only just met, that I hadn't been feeling motivated or inspired to write outside of work, she suggested that I start a blog on a topic unrelated to work. It was an interesting point; I started this blog, back in 2007 with the goal of breaking into cycling journalism (whether or not I knew it at the time). With that as my goal, I was able to focus tightly on writing about cycling, until I became enough of an expert (and the stars aligned) for me to get my job.
But, now that I write about bikes at work, it's hard to come home and write more about bikes. The trouble, of course, is that this is a bike blog, and I'm not willing to abandon it. So, my New Year's resolution is spend more time writing about non-cycling topics on the blog, while still finding a place for bikes here and there.
What will I write about? Well, I love eating, and food is an important part of eating, so, I think that'll be a topic of increasing interest here. The first food on my plate? Latkes:
Or, perhaps, something like a a hash brown
Probably not historical, but traditional
While celebrating Hanukkah with Amanda, her sister and brother-in-law, I had the opportunity to eat a lot of latkes. As you probably know, latkes are traditional potato pancakes. They pay homage to the Hanukkah tradition of a day's supply of oil that lasted eight days by helping you to consume an 8-day supply of oil in each bite. They are delicious.
My Mom's recipe -- which is probably her Mom's recipe, and so on -- involves putting white potatoes and onions (roughly in a 4-1 ratio) in a blender with matzoh meal, pepper and egg. The resulting batter is too thin too be formed into patties, as some recipes call for, so, she puts about a quarter-inch of oil in a pan and heats it until just before it starts to boil. Then, she pours in pancake-sized dollops of batter, cooking one side thoroughly, flipping it, and then cooking the other side.
The result, is oily, mildly salty, and delicious, making an excellent vehicle for apple sauce or sour cream. Mom suggests letting the latkes rest on a paper towel for a little bit before serving. Because, you know, that makes them less oily -- but still pays tribute to the holiday's tradition.
I often say that I'm only Jewish for the food. That's not entirely true, as I'm also Jewish for the guilt and Manischewitz wine. But, mostly for the food, and us Jews love our food traditions: pot roast and gefilte fish on Passover, Chinese food on Christmas, bagels and lox on the day after Thanksgiving and peperoni pizza on Friday. OK, some of those traditions may be unique to my family, but that's OK, I still get to love them, and recreate them when Mom's not around, as was the case this year.
One of the best things about food traditions is sharing them. In fact, I recently learned that other families eat kinds of latkes different from my Mom's. For instance, this year I was cooking with a crew that has all sorts of weird food issues (read, they are vegetarians and don't like oil), so, at Amanda's urging, we attempted to bake some of the batter. The results were not delicious:
Our baking experiment ended poorly
Fortunately, other baked results came out better
Half an hour at 400-degrees did nothing for my fry-able batter. However, a similar amount of cooking did wonders for the squash latkes that Amanda's sister made. They were delicious, I have to say, even if the only thing they shared with latkes is a roughly round shape. Cheers to holiday foods!