The Case for Latkes
It’s one of the great debates of our time: Latkes or Hamantashen? As we approach the festival of Purim, The Commentator is looking at both sides of this heated debate. Below, one of our editors, Netani Shields, explains why the latke is superior. Read the case for the hamantash HERE.
Who are we to judge which food, latkes or hamantashen, is “better”? Each deservedly occupies a place on the tablecloths of our past, present and future. That being said, latkes are infinitely better than their doughy adversary. Here’s why.
What elevates any dish over another is obviously the possession of superior flavor. Latkes are salty, fatty and filling and perfect for an elegant entrée — such as Spiced Potato and Carrot Latkes — while also being able to be a superstar side-dish. Anytime you have a fried potato dish it’s going to be a “direct ticket to Flavortown,” as Guy Fieri would presumably say. Saturated in oil in the best way possible, there’s a reason this treat is eaten for eight straight days; they’re simply tasty.
The thing is, it’s not that the humble potato pancake is packed with flavor while lacking in the texture department. Every possible texture group is actualized with latkes. The potatoes are creamy like mashed potatoes. They are crunchy like a potato chip. And finally, they are greasy like the tater tots of childhood. The heterogeneity of textures is akin to Am Yisrael [Nation of Israel]; different personalities come together to create something better than the sum of its parts.
Latkes are also perfect vehicles with which to be flexible and adaptable. How are latkes when paired with sour cream? Awesome! How are they when dabbed in applesauce? Totally rad. They are delectable when the potatoes have been processed by being blended into a paste, and they are equally unctuous when the potatoes have first been shredded into strips before cooking. Latkes are like people — meaningfully unique in how they choose to express themselves.
I’m not denying that hamantashen can be delicious. Raspberry, chocolate and apricot are some of my favorite flavors. But unlike latkes, which I have proved are good in all contexts, hamantashen are wholly reliant on whatever filling is being highlighted. Did we all suddenly forget that a poppyseed hamantash tastes bad and will also cause one to fail a drug test?
The potato pancake is a celebration of the pach shemen [jar of oil] that was miraculously found after ancient Greeks defiled the Beis Hamikdash [Holy Temple]. In other words, the dish hearkens back to one of our fondest memories as a nation. What are hamantashen? They aim to mimick the likeness of the maniacal Haman, who wished to commit genocide because Mordechai boldly refused to bow down to him. And even though the intention with the pastry is to make fun of the would-be fascist, people don’t really consider that when eating hamentashen; they associate the taste with the name, whose etymology finds itself rooted from one of the darkest figures in our history. I don’t know about you, but inadvertently memorializing genocidal figures leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Literally.
So while, at the end of the day, both dishes are great, I think that one particularly potatoey piece of foodstuffs is the obvious choice for which one is superior. Celebrate what you know is best. Celebrate latkes.
Photo Caption: The latke has several qualities that help it rise above hamantashen.
Photo Credit: Pixabay