Dear Friends,

As Chanukah approaches, so do the many great debates of the season. I am not referring to the one between Rabbis Hillel and Shammai over how we light the chanukiah (we settled that one – Hillel won and we light one the first night and increase each night as opposed to counting down). Nor am I thinking of whether or not we turn our chanukiah around when we put it in the window. The debate I am looking forward to this year is the food feud, delicacy dispute, appetizer argument over what we put on our latkes.

There are two main contenders: sour cream and applesauce. Both have their merits and both compliment the salty taste of a crispy latke wonderfully. In recent years, other contenders have emerged: salsa, lox, and cream cheese (why not?), cinnamon and sugar, and countless other variations. In our family though, there is one food that tops (pun intended) them all: corned beef. My father calls this sandwich (yes, a second latke on top along with mustard or applesauce, completes the ensemble) a “fresser’s sandwich.”

Fress (verb)
Fresser (noun)
Rhymes with “dress.” From German: fress, “devour.”

  1. To eat a great deal. “Did you ever see anyone fress like that?”
  2. To eat quickly, noisily. “Don’t act like a fresser.” “Slow down, don’t fress.” (From Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish)

Ever since I was a kid this was our Chanukah tradition. My brother and I kept up the debates by arguing over which kind of mustard: Stadium mustard or the cheap yellow stuff I remember from the deli. That is how it goes in our family now, too. Mounds of latkes, mounds of corned beef, and the smell of fried potatoes mixing with the smell of candles and gelt. We do not always have homemade applesauce like mom did, but the latkes are the perfect mix of potato, onion, egg, and knuckle.

Whatever your tradition, we hope that it involves some good food and family. We hope you have a happy Chanukah, whether you are team sour cream, team applesauce, or representing an underdog dish. Enjoy!

Of course, you can avoid the whole debate by celebrating the holiday with sufganiyot, delicious donuts fried in oil!

Happy Chanukah,
Rabbi Benjamin