Anyone with a Jewish mother knows that no matter how old you get, they still get you “special” things. Whether they want you to wear your special Chanukah sweater or they made chicken just how you like it, the Jewish mother’s ability to accommodate her children is boundless and ageless.
In my case, it means special latkes. Why special latkes? As I’ve written before, I’ve had Crohn’s disease for about 20 years. While its severity greatly varies from case to case and dietary restrictions also vary, the things at the top of my list of off-limit foods are dairy, fried and spicy. So, no latkes for me, at least the traditionally deep fried ones.
But as I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, every recipe can be altered to be more Crohn’s friendly. So each year, as we prepare latkes assembly-line style at my mom’s house, a number are put aside to be baked in the oven. That’s right, I’m a grown man, managing editor of a prominent Jewish newspaper, and I need special latkes. And as someone who has enjoyed deep-fried latkes, there’s no way I’m celebrating Chanukah without any latkes. And the oven-baked ones do the trick.
It wasn’t until my fiancée and I tried to make latkes by ourselves a number of Chanukahs ago that I fully appreciated the assembly line and all the work that goes into making them just right. Shred the potatoes in a blender, but not too much; you don’t want mushy, watery potatoes. The onions must treated with same amount of sensitivity. And making the latke the right size? That could be the subject of an academic dissertation. After creating a very messy kitchen and refining our process as we went, we had latkes. But they were clearly missing the Jewish mother’s touch and supervision.
This Chanukah, I say rejoice in the “special” things, no matter what age you are, and go out of your way to make things special for others in your family. Believe me, they appreciate it.
And most of all, have a Happy Chanukah!