Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Potato latkes has its origin among Ashkenazi Jews in Europe, where potatoes grew in abundance. Consequently the potato latke became the quintessential Chanukah dish commemorating the little olive oil that the Jews found in the holy temple in Jerusalem after its desecration. Mizrachi (Eastern or Asian origin) Jews- of which I am, eat a variation of latkes- mainly, but not exclusively consisting of any of the following: spinach, cauliflower, leeks or zucchini. It really depends from which country you come from and what grows indigenous there. Nice to know that they were eating to the seasons and cooking with what is grown locally. Makes sense, right?
Yet, there are more traditions behind the "Festival of Lights."
The eating of dairy foods amongst some Jews is another custom and has its roots in the story of Judith- the ultimate feminist. Judith was a pious woman who had a plan to save the Jews by pretending to surrender to an Assyrian general, Holofernes, who led his army in the 2nd century BCE to conquer over the Jews so that he could be exalted. The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was sieged and the Jews could not practice their religion. Judith used her beauty and charm to ingratiate herself onto Holofernes. She brought him her home made cheese and wine (nothing like food to a mans stomach) and went back to his tent.
Judith hand fed Holofernes her cheese and wine until he fell asleep. She managed to stop him from his terrible acts so that the Jews could recapture their Holy Temple and rededicate themselves to their holy services. The first order of business was to light the menorah in the temple, but very little oil was found and would only last one day. The miracle of Chanukah was that the little vile of oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted 8 days.
It is for this reason that we eat foods fried in oil (typically olive oil) and eat dairy to pay hommage to a brave woman who wooed a dangerous general with her cheese!
These zucchini fritters inculcate the story of Chanukah with green rope like strands sizzled in olive oil commemorating the miracle of the oil and has a touch of parmesan to honor the ultimate feminist Judith for her courageous acts. For an extra punch, I suggest dipping the fritters into a salsa which adds a delicate piquancy to these light zucchini fritters.