Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy Hanukkah from Beijing

December brings, among other things, a handful of winter holidays. The most important two, for me, are Hanukkah and Marc Zeiger-Guerra day. Marc Zeiger-Guerra day falls on December 29th and has been celebrated throughout the world since 1981, the day upon which Marc Zeiger-Guerra was born. It is a VERY easy holiday to remember, as it falls between the birth of Jesus and the start of the new year. Same day, every year.

Hanukkah, however, is a little more difficult to keep track of, as it follows the lunar calendar. One would think that observing a lunar cycle holiday in a country that has many lunar holidays would be quite easy. Not the case. Despite its status as the most famous Jewish holiday, pretty much no Jew ever knows when it is. I am no exception to the annual forgetfulness. I only learned about Hanukkah's start date (December 11th) by receiving an email from a friend (HEY ALISON!) about a potluck.

Most of the traditional foods associated with Hanukkah involve a lot of oil. The most well known are latke's (potato pancakes) and sufganyot (jelly donuts). I've never made jelly donuts and was not about to start now. But I figured latkes would be pretty easy to make with readily available supplies. Veronica ducked outside to pick up some potatoes and yams and we set about chopping them up into fine slivers for the pancakes. Add in some eggs and flour (we used dumpling flour), shape into blobs and flatten in oil. Toss in some salt and pepper and you've got some genuine chinese sweetpotato latkes.
As it turns out, I was one of two latke makers that night. The other chef (HEY Aaron) used a Julia Child recipe that included all sorts of cream and deliciousness. Between the two of us we made WAY more than we all could eat. So we had latkes and omelettes the next morning.

There were a nice handful of expats there that night and we ate, lit candles and sang some hanukkah songs. No dreidel was played, but there was some gelt presentVeronica and I plan to light candles every night. I'm not sure when the last time I did that was, but I'm excited. We should probably get each other some presents too...