Tradition, Tradition! (or why Martha Stewart’s job is safe)

I’ve never been the Domestic Goddess type – I mean, I cook for my family and sometimes enjoy it, but I tend to stick to meals requiring a minimum of time and ingredients. (One of my new favorites is an easy pulled-pork where you throw the meat in a crockpot with a can of root beer and a bottle of barbecue sauce.) So I avoid labor-intensive recipes (anything requiring homemade stock is a definite no), and I’m usually content. But this is a time of year when we all get nostalgic for holiday traditions – those sweet, Normal Rockwell-esque moments, like stringing popcorn and cranberries, gathering fresh pine boughs, making popovers, surprising Marmee with little gifts – oh, wait, that wasn’t my childhood, that was Jo March’s. Anyway, most of us have fond memories of holiday foods; for some of you, it might be decorating cookies with multi-colored icing and sprinkles, or mulling your own wassail (??). For me, it’s making latkes, the traditional potato pancake served on Chanukah.

Potato pancakes, if you’ve never made them, require grating potatoes and squeezing out all the moisture, then mixing them with various ingredients, getting rid of more moisture, and frying them in generous quantities of oil. They’re addictively delicious, if you like fried potatoes. (Think of hash browns, only better.) But they’re also unbelievably messy – between the grating, the squeezing, the mixing, and the splattering oil, my entire kitchen ends up in complete chaos, and I vow never to attempt it again – until the next year. The worst part is, my kids don’t even like them and complain about the smell (the kitchen tends to smell like a fast food restaurant for days).

This year, at least, I was able to utilize the mess for a video from my Chanukah album, so enjoy “Latkes, Shmatkes,” and yes, that really is what my kitchen looks like after making a batch. (I hope this makes you feel better about your own culinary messes!)

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