There is no song that sums of the American Jewish experience better than that heartrending classic “A Lonely Jew on Christmas” from South Park: “I can’t sing Christmas songs or decorate a Christmas tree / Or leave water out for Rudolph ‘cause there’s something wrong with me / My people don’t believe in Jesus Christ’s divinity.”
Sometimes we compensate by learning all about the Christmas traditions from songs like “White Christmas”—which was written by a Jew. (I’ve got a theory about this: since we have no Christmas traditions of our own besides going to the movies and eating Chinese food, we assume that every Christian does all the Christmas things that we see on TV.)
Sometimes we try to adapt by steeping ourselves in gingerbread and peppermint. In her classic cookbook The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, Jewish food maven Joan Nathan offers two gingerbread recipes—one light, one dark—so Jewish children don’t feel too left out of the Christmas cookie-making tradition. She also pads out the chapter with, ahem, three potato latke recipes.
Not that potato latkes aren’t awesome. Or ricotta cheese latkes. And sufganiyot, the jelly doughnuts popularized by Israeli Jews, are pretty good, too. Leah Koenig, author of The Jewish Cookbook, has given us her blessing to eat fried chicken. But we’ve got eight days of eating ahead of us. And since Christmas happens during Hanukkah this year, our goyische family and friends will be paying attention. Now is our chance to convince them—and ourselves—that Jewish holiday food can stand up to the Christmas feast. What should we feed them?