Hanukkah: The Celebration of Family, Food and An Unwelcome Visitor

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* I tried to use as many Yiddish words as possible because Yiddish is awesome.  I highlighted them in blue.  

I am a Shikse (pronounced shick-sa). If you don’t know what that is, then you are one also. A Shikse is a non-Jewish woman. My husband is Jewish and that makes my four children half Jewish. So what is a Shikse supposed to do to bring a little Jewish heritage into her children’s lives?

half jew

Tradition! Food!

Every year I throw a Hanukkah celebration for our family. And even though I am a Shikse, I believe my Hanukkah dinner can rival the most seasoned Jewish Bubbe (grandmother).

Hanukkah is a time when we enjoy the best selections of wine and I prepare traditional Jewish cuisine that always produces culinary pleasure. But it is much more than a delicious feast; Hanukkah is a special evening that includes lighting the Menorah, making toasts, piano playing and games of Spin The Dreidel.

My Hanukkah Menu: 

Matzo Ball soup

beef brisket with horseradish sauce by Sara Mullen

- latkes

– homemade applesauce

challah

– Salad with Champagne Vinagrette

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Chocolate and olive oil Bundt cake with orange chocolate sauce. This year I purchased a             beautiful Star of David Bundt Cake pan at my local grocery store.

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We start out our Hanukkah feast with Matzo Ball soup, the unofficial symbol of Jewish cuisine. As the ancient tale goes, the Matzo dumpling dates back to the Torah itself. As the story goes, the Israelites rushed out of Israel with the Pharaoh’s chasing close behind. Along their journey to the Promised Land, the Israelites mixed unleavened breadcrumbs, eggs and oil to create Matzo balls, and put them in boiling water to for a nutritious soup.

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One of the most delicious parts of the Hanukkah dinner are the latkes, which symbolize and commemorate the miracle of menorah oil in the Jewish Temple. The Jews used potatoes because they were plentiful and easy to obtain in Eastern Europe back in the day.

latkes

There are many different kinds of latkes, but I prefer to prepare a classic potato latke. Years ago, I would hand shred my potatoes, which was a major pain in the tushi. But now I have a Cuisinart food processor and I can whip those potato shreds out in no time at all. Latkes are always served with sour cream and applesauce. I prepare the latkes the day before and then freeze them.

I make my own applesauce by simply peeling and dicing six pounds of apples, adding a cup or two of apple cider, two teaspoons of cinnamon and cooking them down for an hour. Very easy to make your own and it tastes much more delicious on that latke.

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Every year I buy a six-pound brisket from Whole Foods and I get busy preparing Aunt Rifka’s Red-Wine Braised Brisket. The beef brisket takes a total of six and a half hours from start to completion, so it is wise to begin in the morning.  If you have some real Chutzpah, you can soak your brisket in coca cola all night before you cook it. I have never tried this, but it sounds fantastic.

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Along with matzo ball soup, brisket and latkes, the final most important part of a Hanukkah dinner is the Challah. Challah is the traditional braided bread served by Jews on Sabbath and any other occasion that calls for celebration in the Jewish home. My mom makes the Challah for us because she is very talented baker. One time I tried to make Challah and it turned into a round hard brick.

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While I make sure our food is delicious, Ava practices the Hanukkah prayers and some special piano pieces that she plays for our guests during the evening.

DSC_6499 Chris prepares a schtick for our guests during the lighting of the Menorah. Giving a toast or a speech well is a gift and my husband has it. In his speeches he get really schmaltzy, tying together the elements of Jewish tradition with the importance of breaking bread with friends and family.

At the end of our Hanukkah celebration last night Chris did something unexpected and quite disturbing.  He brought out the newest addition to our house; the Mensch on A Bench.  I wanted to throttle him since I already have immense disdain for The Elf On The Shelf.  This is just one more thing that I will be forced to move from place to place throughout the house each night, telling my kids yet another holiday lie about make believe people making gifts and such.

This morning the kids woke up to this:

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There is peace between the Middle East and the North Pole this holiday season.

Happy Hanukkah!

hanukkah funny

*Photos courtesy of Alex Sheridan

Until next time, the mothership is signing off.

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