Books for the News, Chicago

Happy Hannukah!

jacket imageOkay, so maybe you’re not as ambitious as the recent Southern California group that, to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah, made the world’s largest latke cooked by a solar oven. For equally delicious but smaller-scale potato pancakes, you might try this delicious recipe culled from The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate. (There’s also a hamantashen recipe, if that’s the side on which you find yourself in said debate.)
But, of course, the book’s main attractions are not the recipes but the performances by members of elite American academies who attack the latke-versus-hamantash question with intellectual panache and an unerring sense of humor, if not chutzpah. This great latke-hamantash debate, occurring every November for the past six decades, brings Nobel laureates, university presidents, and notable scholars together to debate whether the potato pancake or the triangular Purim pastry is in fact the worthier food. What began as an informal gathering at the University of Chicago is now an institution that has been replicated on campuses nationwide.
If you didn’t make your local debate this year, you can have a taste of what you missed by reading (or listening to) Ted Cohen’s “Consolations of the Latke”—or, of course, by giving yourself a copy for Hannukah.