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Chris Rosenblum | Eat up at Hadassah’s food fair

Let me look at you.

You’re so thin. What’s the matter? You don’t have time to eat any more? What, you’re too busy writing letters to open the refrigerator? Don’t worry; I’ll be fine sitting by the phone waiting for your call.

But you, you I worry about. You need food, real food, not something in a box made by some yutz behind a counter, they charge you $15, it’s not even hot. It gives me a pain to think about it.

So. It’s settled. You’ll come down to Congregation Brit Shalom on Thursday for a nice Jewish meal — some potato latkes, a kosher hot dog, maybe a little kugel or challah bread.

Trust me: You’d be meshuggeneh to miss this. These women from the State College chapter of Hadassah, they know a thing or two about latkes.

Every year, 20 or 30 of them spend two days in the synagogue’s kitchen — everything kept kosher of course — working shifts to fry 800 latkes for their annual Food Fair, their popular fundraiser before Hanukkah. People look forward to their first bites.

You should be so lucky.

As Renee Steffensmeier said the other day — she’s on the Food Fair committee — the latkes are made the traditional way. Like Aunt Ruth used to do. First, they put the grated potatoes into a bowl of cold water. Then they drain the bowl so the goopy starch stays on the bottom.

Last, they mix in grated onions, eggs, salt and pepper, matzo meal and baking powder. With an ice cream scooper, they place batter in sizzling vegetable oil and fry until it’s browned, crisp on the outside, a little chewy inside, a thing of beauty.

Some applesauce or sour cream on top, not too thick, and you’re in business.

Such a wonder! Such talent! So they use frozen potatoes rather than grating by hand to save time.

Nobody’s perfect.

In case you forgot — I’m not saying you did, but I never hear from you — the oil comes from a miracle long ago: the defiled Holy Temple reclaimed and re-dedicated with sacred oil just enough for one day that ended up burning for eight.

That’s why, during Hanukkah’s eight days, we eat latkes, doughnuts and other food fried in oil. What did Renee say? Oh yes: “All the heart-attack-on-a-plate stuff you can think of.”

Which reminds me, my doctor says I’m perfectly fine. Not that you should care. You’re very busy all the time. I understand.

But back to the Food Fair, what a deal: You get two latkes with each dinner, plus a quarter-pound kosher dog or vegetarian chili, coleslaw, applesauce, dessert, beverages, all for $10 or $5 for children 12 and younger.

They sold 250 dinners last year; can you believe it? That’s a lot of latkes.

And don’t leave without stopping at the bake table across the room. It’ll have extra latkes by the dozen, challah, rugelah, mandel bread, almond cake, kugel, decorated Hanukkah cookies and, your favorite, chicken soup with matzo balls — all homemade.

Try and find that in your fancy supermarket.

Just don’t sit around on your tuckus before going. People will stand in line waiting for the door to open at 4:30 p.m. By the end two hours later, most of the good stuff will be long gone.

What’s more, it’s all for a good cause: the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem. Did you know it serves more than 1 million patients, not only in Israel but also in Syria, Iraq and other other Middle Eastern countries?

Incredible. So be a mensch and help out, maybe make a raffle or silent auction bid at the fair. After all, the local Hadassah women have gone to great trouble.

They had kosher hot dogs brought from a Silver Spring, Md., Jewish grocery, schlepped all the way by a fan coming up for the Penn State-Maryland football game. Why? Nobody around here carried the Hebrew National brand any more.

They’re prepared to suffer, to slave in the kitchen over hot griddles and ovens.

“There’s a lot of gossiping and laughing,” Steffensmeier said. “But the disadvantage is that you come out of there smelling like oil. You go home and you have to get your clothes changed immediately.”

OK, they have a good time. So sue me. But, oy, they wind up stinking like human potato chips. You think you have problems.

What more can I say? The least you can do is take my advice, go over to Brit Shalom on Thursday and enjoy some authentic Jewish cooking for a change.

Eat, bubeleh, eat.

And would it kill you to call once in a while?

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