Friends Say ‘Feh’ to Fried Foods for Chanukah

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Dear Miriam,

I’m having a Chanukah party for the eighth night, but all my guests have indicated in one way or another that they’re sick of fried food. Do you have any alternative party ideas for a festive night with friends?

Signed,

Too many latkes

Dear Latkes,

I have to say, I sympathize with your friends. I mean, think of how sick of matzo you are by the eighth day of Passover.  Eight days of anything in a row is tricky, and I am definitely ready to commit to whole grains and veggies after the oil-filled intensity of this past week.

Still, the point is to increase the joy over the holiday, so I’m glad you’re not giving up altogether. In honor of the eight nights (and the fact that I really like making lists of eight things for Chanukah), here are some alternative suggestions.

  1. You’re still going to need to eat, so what about trying some alternative forms of latkes? This year, I made carrot/sweet potato latkes, spinach feta latkes and samosa spiced latkes. They were all delicious, if I can say that about my own food. There are recipes out there for beet latkes, zucchini latkes and cheese latkes. There are baked latkes and there are even giant one-pan latkes. Maybe you could buy a bunch of ingredients and encourage your friends to get creative, then everyone can judge the results. (Full disclosure: I haven’t tried any of these recipes — and didn’t follow any recipes for my own creations.)

 

  1. You may be tired of latkes and donuts, but what about fried foods you’ve never tried before? This list describes many traditional Chanukah foods in non-Ashkenazi communities. Even if you don’t actually make any of them, looking through the list with your friends could be fun and educational and spark conversations about different cultures.

 

  1. If it’s not too late to ask friends to bring a contribution, try suggesting that everyone brings a food that helps them feel cozy, or a childhood favorite, or something punny about light. If it’s too late for people to plan to cook, you could ask everyone to bring a recipe and then explain them around the table as a way to share memories and traditions.

 

  1. There are an unbelievable number of Chanukah picture books out there. Pick a few favorites (libraries, bookstores, and friends with kids will all likely have a wide selection) and do a read aloud. Personally, I am more than a little tired of The Golem’s Latkes, but if you haven’t been reading it multiple times every day, you might enjoy it. Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor is a fascinatingly pro-vaccine Chanukah book that came out this year. For a weird holiday mash-up, there’s also The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story.

 

  1. For something a little more adult, pick a few of the many recent articles calling for an update to our current understanding of Chanukah. I recommend this article by my friend Evelyn, this one if you’re feeling especially curmudgeonly, this by David Zvi Kalman, or this one, which is actually about latkes.

 

  1. Hold a massive dreidel tournament. Try out new rules, make it into a drinking game, create sudden-death dreidel challenges, whatever. Despite the prominence of these little tops, not that many people seem to sit down and really play a game. Alternatively, challenge your friends to make a dreidel out of clay (or some other creative materials!) that will actually spin.

 

  1. Have a Chanukah-themed YouTube party. Definitely include the Maccabeats and Adam Sandler, but see what else is out there that might be fun to watch as a group, and of course ask your friends for their favorites.

 

  1. Last but certainly not least, connect Chanukah to social justice. HIAS has a list of eight ways to help refugees during the holiday. AJWS has a variety of resources on their website about Judaism and social justice. Repair the World: Philadelphia is hosting a number of collection drives this month, so you could ask your guests to bring something to donate. You could also encourage your friends to talk about their hopes and goals for making the world a brighter place in the coming year.

 

If you don’t get around to all of these at one party (don’t try to do all of these at one party), you’ll be ready when next year rolls around to do something slightly unexpected. Or, alternatively, plan next year’s party for the first night when everyone is still excited about latkes. Either way, happy Chanukah.

Be well,

Miriam

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