Sunday, December 5, 2010

Latkes' Lament

A few years ago, before Facebook was available to the post-college crowd, I kept a personal blog on Wordpress, The Border Fence. I stopped updating it in 2008 after I took over as editor of DCGastronome. It still exists in some password-protected sense, and on occasion I would write about food (no surprise there). In honor of the fantastic sweet potato latkes and mulled Manischewitz I had on the 3rd night of Hanukkah courtesy of M., here's a recycled entry from December 2006. If you are craving latkes and your friends aren't as accommodating, Firefly in Dupont Circle has a latke special for the duration of the holiday.

Latke's Lament 16.12.2006
We were making our way up 18th street, and I couldn't shake the feeling that there was a better way to get to Adams Mill Road - one that didn't involve stopping every other corner to wait for a street light to change. Jaywalking in DC is not the best idea generally, and in the area surrounding Dupont Circle specifically, with all those cars with diplomatic plates driving around.

"I never do it, unless there's a woman with a stroller stepping into the street. Then I run alongside them."

My friend seems amused. I explain that no one would deliberately run over a woman with a baby. Acceptable variants include pregnant women, dads with babies in arms, and even toddlers. "What if they swerve to avoid the adult with the kid element and then they hit you?" I retort with the running alongside them, thus creating a human shield.

I hear chuckles behind us. Two guys, strolling along 18th street. They've been tailing along for a while, but our general direction is very common for a Friday night. They tell us that they are not stalking us and that they are going to a bar. I take a look at them. Undergrads, barely legal if they cannot name a specific bar in Adams Morgan yet. After a few quips they ask us where we are going.

"Latke Party! It's the first night of Hanukkah."

"What's a Latke?"

"It's a take on a hash brown. The best part of Hanukkah is all the fried foods."

One of them answers, "Oh see I am a recovering Catholic. We don't have any specific food."

My friend turns to me, her walking reference guide who goes to Sunday school on Tuesdays. I ponder.

"Fish for lent? I guess every country has its specific holiday fare."

Recovering Catholic's companion says, "Well, then I guess you can claim the cuisine of any predominantly Catholic country as yours, no?"

Mexican, French, Italian, Spanish… we miss out on all the Asian cuisines, but the thought of religious cultural imperialism is perverse enough to work.

"So if you are Catholic how come you know what latkes are?"

I could wax philosophical about the war on Christmas. I just smile and say I am thankful and blessed with good friends.

"So can we go to this party of yours? Latkes sound like something worth knowing!"

We look at each other. The Adams Mill Road locale is homey, but small. It's also sit down dinner. We say sorry, but we are guests and we were asked to bring plates, not random 20 year olds. We pleasantly part ways in Columbia Road.

We get to our friend's party as the first batch of Latkes is coming out. Potato and onion ransack our noses. The candles are lit and blessings are said.

Sour cream and apple sauce conspire to make the latkes fly off the table. A late guest shows up just in time to claim the remaining three.

"I am so glad there's latkes left. I was at this massive Hanukkah party and the hostess refused to make the latkes, and she had the shredded potato and everything! She had stage fright!"

Latke anxiety. Sounds like a Woody Allen movie.

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