Because it was technically a full meal, someone would make brisket or roast chicken. Someone else would make vegetables and salad. But the centerpiece of the meal, the only dish that counted that evening, was the latkes—crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. And we’d take sides over what accompanied them. Those who were on the savory side ate them with salt and sour cream. The rest would go for sugar and/or applesauce.

David Wasserman, owner of coffee truck Joes on the Nose, grew up in Brooklyn eating them. He’s an applesauce guy—and the applesauce, he say, was his mom’s homemade, made using a Foley mill with a variety of Northeast apples.

“While others had Christmas trees and cookies, we had potato pancakes,” he recalls. “My mother tended to make a big batch of latkes, then freeze them and warm them up in the oven through the holiday and after. They were around a half-inch thick and silver dollar pancake size.”

Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace, Solace & the Moonlight Lounge and Sea & Smoke, also grew up eating latkes. He apparently swings both ways on the savory/sweet spectrum of accompaniments. “I’ve always loved them—with applesauce as a kid and with sour cream and chives and other yummy stuff as I got older,” he says. Today he goes “full Monty with the sour cream and applesauce.” Gordon remembers eating them and playing dreidel—and arguing with his sister about who won) when he was a kid in Los Angeles.

Latkes may be iconic Ashkenazic Chanukah food now, but they’re actually relatively new in Jewish history. The Maccabees—the priestly family who led the successful rebellion against the Syrians back in 168 B.C.E. which the holiday celebrates—never would have had latkes since they would never have seen a potato. It was only at the end of the 18th century that German Jews began making potato pancakes, but not for Chanukah. And these potato pancakes weren’t just from grated spuds, as we’ve come to assume are traditional, but also mashed, according to Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.

“While others had Christmas trees and cookies, we had potato pancakes,” he recalls. “My mother tended to make a big batch of latkes, then freeze them and warm them up in the oven through the holiday and after. They were around a half-inch thick and silver dollar pancake size.”

Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace, Solace & the Moonlight Lounge and Sea & Smoke, also grew up eating latkes. He apparently swings both ways on the savory/sweet spectrum of accompaniments. “I’ve always loved them—with applesauce as a kid and with sour cream and chives and other yummy stuff as I got older,” he says. Today he goes “full Monty with the sour cream and applesauce.” Gordon remembers eating them and playing dreidel—and arguing with his sister about who won) when he was a kid in Los Angeles.

Latkes may be iconic Ashkenazic Chanukah food now, but they’re actually relatively new in Jewish history. The Maccabees—the priestly family who led the successful rebellion against the Syrians back in 168 B.C.E. which the holiday celebrates—never would have had latkes since they would never have seen a potato. It was only at the end of the 18th century that German Jews began making potato pancakes, but not for Chanukah. And these potato pancakes weren’t just from grated spuds, as we’ve come to assume are traditional, but also mashed, according to Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.

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