It’s the last night of Hanukkah and every year someone inevitably asks for my latke recipe. And I always have to explain…there is no recipe. It’s in my head, in my hands, in my tastebuds. I can tell you what goes in, but I can’t put into words how it should feel when you mix it in your hands or how it should taste when you pull that first latke from the oil. I can’t even tell you how much of each ingredient you need. The closest I can get is 5lbs of potatoes and 1 red onion. The rest is all in the feeling.
There is something about this time of year. It’s more than the food, the decorations, or the presents. When you sit and enjoy time with your friends and family, you reflect on all those who came before you. How many generations explained to their friends that there is no recipe, but taught their children how to feel. How to feel their history and their family in a bowl of potatoes and matzo. How to nourish their loved ones with a simple plate of food and create memories in their tastebuds.
We all have those things, don’t we? Your mom’s homemade noodles. Your grandma’s strawberry pie. Sharing latkes feels the same to me as cracking open my book of ancestry. Of course, on my latke making side, I can only trace back to the Holocaust. But the latkes bring me further–latkes make me gracious and humbled. And I can remember those I’ve never known. Those who made me, me.