May 21st

theresa albert - my friend in food


The Festival of Not-So-Light


“Chanukah”, otherwise known as “The Festival of Lights” or the “Feast of What-IS-The-Correct-Spelling-Anyway?” and sometimes as the “Holiday of How-Will-The-Newscaster-Pronounce-It-This-Year?” is observed at this time of year by many Jews world-wide.  It commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabees hard-won fight for their religious freedom in the 2nd Century BCE from then Greco-Syrian ruler King Antiochus IV.

The legend goes that after liberating their temple and finding it defiled, these Jewish warriors cleaned it up and wanted to relight the eternal flame but found only enough oil to last a day.  Miraculously, the small amount of oil lasted for eight days, long enough to find a fresh supply.

This miracle is remembered today through the tradition of eating foods fried in oil, the most famous of which is the “Latke”, otherwise known as a potato pancake.   Israelis, seemingly unsatisfied with the mere calories imparted by the oil, have more of a penchant for “Souvganiot” or jelly donuts, giving them the double whammy of both fat and sugar.

These days when fried food is widely seen as a plague against wellness, many have tried to reduce the caloric impact of a good Hanukah celebration.  Whole wheat cookies in the shapes of dreylds and menorahs abound with platters of virtuous veggies dipped in fiber-laden hummus working to sate the healthy palate.  However, Hanuka just doesn’t seem complete without the latkes and so many, many cooks and nutritionists have tried to make a low-fat version.   I have yet to find even one that doesn’t taste like a flaccid piece of brown cardboard no matter how much apple sauce is heaped upon it.

There are simply some foods for which there is NO healthy substitute.  I am of the Yoda philosophy on this one when it comes to latkes (with apologies to Star Wars fans):  “Eat or do not eat; there is no low-fat.”   So, I do a little extra workout and I eat a little less cheese and shortbread at my friends’ Christmas parties; that way I can indulge a little in a crunchy, greasy, fattening and delicious part of my heritage.

As a peace-making gesture to the Greeks who feature as the oppressors in the Chanukka story, this year, I am making “Souvlatkes”:  Pitas, lined with tzadziki, onion, lettuce and tomato, wrapped around some crispy latkes.  Fried food, peace on earth and good wellness to all!



Ilana Waldston is the mother of two teenage girls who keeps sane by singing. A graduate of the prestigious International Cabaret Conference at Yale, she’s been delighting Toronto audiences with her comedic patter and well-honed ability to sell a song. She’s a self-professed foodie, loves to bake, travel and dine (often all at once) who sometimes sings of food in songs such as “My Diet Starts Tomorrow”, “Dieter’s Prayer” and “Foodblooz”. In addition to her solo work, she’s also a part of Toronto’s only female jazz quartet, The Satin Dolls...


One Response

    December 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm Reply

    Yoda is my master.

    Everything tastes better fried!

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