The origin of latkes (or: how a traditional feestgerecht’t do much with Hanukkah)

According to tradition, eating jews already before our era latke to celebrate Hanukkah, even though the two main elements at that time is still not widespread. The Atlantic looked out of where the widely-held pancakes or come, and that turns out to be a story with many unexpected twists and turns.

© Getty Images/iStockphoto

Large celebrations are bursting with the traditions. So also the jewish feast of Hanukkah, which is not complete without a pile of latke, or fried in olive oil potato pancakes. In 1958 issued a standard work, the Art of Jewish Cooking states that the origin of this delicious tradition for thousands of years back. And that is at least remarkable, according to The Atlantic, because the main constituents of them are still only a few decades.

© From: Art of Jewish Cooking

The key for latke is not the potato but the oil. During Hanukkah commemorate the jews of the reconquest of the temple of Jerusalem in the year 165 v.C.. At the ritual cleansing remained when according to the Talmud, a supply of olive oil which is normal, but it would be enough for a day but less than eight days was kept burning.

But that olive oil was in 1927, when for the first time mention was made of latke in the English language, not available in Eastern Europe or the United States, where many jews lived. The commonly used shortening in Eastern Europe was lard, animal fat from geese, chickens or cattle. In America, used revelers Crisco, a hydrogenated vegetable oil. When hydrogenated oil, however, from grace fell, asked American jews about olive oil. That is the time that the pancakes are linked to the miracle in the temple of Jerusalem.


Art of Jewish Cooking, there was a sloppy two thousand years, when it claimed that latkes have always been made with potatoes.

About to that another ingredient: potatoes. That felt very European, actually they are from South America imported tubers. They arrived in Europe in the 16th century, but they were long with suspicion (because the stems and berries of the plant are toxic) or as pig feed viewed. It was only in the early 19th century was the potato to the status that he has today and he was, therefore, also eaten by jews. That means that Art of Jewish Cooking there is a sloppy two thousand years of wrong when it claimed that latkes have always been made with potatoes.

Italian origin

What the soldiers of opstandleider Judas Makkabeüs or ate, makes this story even more remarkable. The first notion of the jews that pancakes frying for Chanukah to celebrate, dates back to Italy of the 14th century. Used as basis for the local jewish community so no potatoes, but… cheese.

The original latkes were pancakes of fried ricotta. That was a tribute to the Biblical character Judith. In a for jews apocryphal story that in the catholic Bible is included, is how Judith – before general Holofernes literally a cup smaller made – him first, two salted pancakes with cheese offered. In the middle ages circulated in Italian jewish communities this version of the story, in which Judith, as a sister or aunt of Hanukkah-hero Judas Makkabeüs was proposed.

© Getty Images/iStockphoto

Is the link clear enough? Sorry, because there is still a twist. Judith and Judas have nothing to do with each other, except perhaps the first three letters of their name. The story of Judith comes hundreds of years before the time of the Maccabees. In the Italian middle ages, however, it could a long time not everyone read (if they already had access to a copy of the Bible) and were the two stories together told.

Almost sixty years after the Art of Jewish Cooking calls for a new definition of latkes so on. Latke: a far from traditional jewish dish that originated in Italy and is based on the incorrect reading of an apocryphal text. But delicious it is!

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