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The Latke Dilemma

Y. Bromberg

“I was wondering if you felt up to frying your delicious latkes for my birthday party in two days,” I asked cautiously

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Photo: Shutterstock.

I ’ve known since I was a little kid that Bubby makes the most delicious latkes in the world. People used to line up outside her door during Chanukah to buy them. So I knew the treat I wanted most for my upcoming birthday on the fifth day of Chanukah. I loved the idea of treating my friends at school to a taste of Bubby’s heavenly dish.

Two days before the party I knocked on Bubby’s front door. “Yonah! What a pleasant surprise!” Bubby said, a brilliant smile lifting the wrinkles on her kind face. “You haven’t visited for so long!” “I’m sorry for not visiting more often,” I said, my cheeks reddening slightly. “Oh, don’t you worry,” she said, ushering me inside her warm, cozy little house. She sat me down on the old couch covered with her hand-knitted quilts. “I was wondering if you felt up to frying your delicious latkes for my birthday party in two days,” I asked cautiously. I noticed that her hands were shaking even more than usual and that she looked so tired.

“Oh...” Bubby’s face was anxious. “Sweetheart, I’ve been feeling so old and shaky lately. I’m just not sure I can make food the way I used to.”

“I understand! Don’t worry about it!” I said hurriedly, smiling reassuringly. “Maybe another time.”

Bubby was silent for a moment and then a fierce determination appeared on her face. She bustled off to the kitchen and returned a moment later wearing her famous, oil- and chocolate-stained apron with faded pink flowers. “Let’s see if your old Bubby still has some cooking talent left!” she said.

I followed her into her kitchen and watched as she began to work her magic. She cranked up her old gas stove, spilled oil into the frying pan, and began peeling potatoes over the sink. I watched as she laboriously grated the potatoes, then mixed them with grated onion and spices from large containers. After a few minutes, the smell of frying latkes filled the air.

“Here, Yonah, since this is just a test batch, you can try a fresh one right now!” Bubby said proudly, setting a plump, steaming latke onto a plate beside dollops of sour cream and applesauce. “Thanks, Bubby!” I said. But something was amiss. Instead of a golden outer layer, the latke looked burned and there was a smoky smell beginning to waft from it. I took a small bite of the burnt latke and instantly gagged.

There was way too much salt, an overdose of garlic powder that made my eyes sting, and instead of some other spice it tasted like Bubby had substituted hot paprika. “Nu?” Bubby asked with a huge, proud smile.

“Um, delicious!” I answered, trying not to let her notice my tearing eyes.

“Excellent! It seems I still have the magic!” Bubby cried triumphantly. “I’m going to bake a huge batch for your entire class! You’ll be so proud, just wait and see! It will be a birthday party to remember!”

“Okay… thanks Bubby,” I whispered. I slid the rest of the latke into my napkin when she turned to hang up her apron on its hook on the closet door.

I left her house soon after and immediately called my best friend, Zev. “Okay, buddy, we need a game plan!” Zev said, after I’d explained. “Whatever happens, you cannot bring those latkes to class! You’ll be laughed out of school!”

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