Hanukkah begins tonight!!
Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, dates back to 167 BCE. The story is based largely of legend, as few historical details remain.
At the time, the Jews were living in Israel, under the control of the Syrian-Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus' reign brought with it a violent attempt to force the Jews in the kingdom to assimilate to Greek cultural norms. The breaking point came in 165 BCE, when Antiochus placed an altar to Zeus in the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. A group of brothers, called the Maccabees, led a revolt against Antiochus and liberated the temple, getting rid of the idols that Antiochus had installed there.
When the Maccabees took the temple, they cleansed it, building a new altar to replace the old one. The menorah was to be lit and stay lit continuously through the night, but there was only enough olive oil to last a single day. Miraculously, the single day's worth of oil burned over the course of 8 days, long enough for new oil to be brought to the temple so the menorah could stay lit, and the temple was rededicated to Judaism.
Upon the temple's rededication, the Maccabees decided to celebrate (belatedly) the harvest festival of Sukkot; due to Antiochus' having defiled the temple, the temple had been unusable for that year's Sukkot. They then instituted an annual winter holiday to commemorate the rededication of the temple and the miracle of the oil. The oil plays a big role in the traditional foods of Hanukkah; foods cooked in oil (often olive oil, but chicken fat in parts of Eastern Europe where olives were hard to come by) are a major part of the celebration. A mainstay of Hanukkah food is the latke (a potato pancake fried in oil).
FISHDUCKY'S BUBBE'S (GRANDMA'S) POTATO LATKES
6 large potatoes, peeled
1 heaping tablespoon baking powder
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. flour
If you use a grater rub the potatoes on the smallest (diamond-like) points. It is easier to use a food processor. Process them until they are mushy, but not creamy, with no chunks of potato left. Add baking powder & flour & mix well with a spoon. The most important thing about these latkes is how they are cooked. Put about 1/4" of oil in large cast iron (or other heavy) pan & preheat it. It is the right temperature when a very slight amount of the potatoes on the edge a spoon will sizzle when dipped into the oil. Spoon 1/3 to 1/2 cup for each latke into the oil making sure the sides do not touch. Fry about 5 minutes per side over medium heat. Test for doneness by lifting one edge of a latke to look at it. (I don't know why, but that's what my grandmother told me. I don't think she knew why, either.) Do not turn over until brown. Latkes should be turned over only once. Drain on cake rack or paper towels. Keep in 140 degree oven until you are finished. Serve plain or topped with sour cream and/or applesauce.
I have no idea how many latkes this makes but extra ones store very well in the freezer. Reheat in a 350° oven, fry or even microwave. (Nuking makes them less crisp.)
The dreidel is a Jewish variant on the teetotum, a gambling toy found in many European cultures. Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (He), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for "נס גדול היה שם" (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – "a great miracle happened there").
Playing with the dreidel is a traditional Hanukkah game played in Jewish homes all over the world, and rules may vary. Here’s how to play the basic dreidel game:
1. Any number of people can take part.
2. Each player begins the game with an equal number of game pieces (about 10-15) such as pennies, nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, matchsticks, etc.
3. At the beginning of each round, every participant puts one game piece into the center “pot.” In addition, every time the pot is empty or has only one game piece left, every player should put one in the pot.
4. Every time it’s your turn, spin the dreidel once. Depending on the side it lands on, you give or get game pieces from the pot. For those who don’t read Hebrew, some dreidels also feature a transliteration of each letter. If yours doesn’t, use the photo below as a cheat sheet:
a) Nun means “nisht” or “nothing.” The player does nothing.
b) Gimel means “gantz” or “everything.” The player gets everything in the pot.
c) Hey means “halb” or “half.” The player gets half of the pot. (If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half of the total plus one).
d) Shin (outside of Israel) means “shtel” or “put in.” Peh (in Israel) also means “put in.” The player adds a game piece to the pot.
5. If you find that you have no game pieces left, you are either “out” or may ask a fellow player for a “loan.”6. When one person has won everything, that round of the game is over.
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A word of advice; don't give it----fishducky