“When life throws you potatoes, make latkes”: Hamantaschen v. Latke debate held

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

It was a grand, well-attended event, where ancient animosities would be aired. “The future of Judaism could depend on this debate,” said Jonathan Schneider in his grave introduction. Yes, yesterday was Ruach’s annual Hamantaschen v. Latke debate. Representing the Hamantaschen was biology professor Scott Gilbert. Dean of the College Bob Gross stood up for the latke.

A hamantaschen is a small cookie shaped like a three-cornered hat and filled with some kind of jam or fruit or poppy seeds, and is traditionally served on Purim (this Friday). Or perhaps only this innocent reporter thought that they are shaped like hats. Professor Gilbert, declaring that developmental biology is “a license to talk dirty”, said that Haman, the villain of the Purim story whose hat is supposedly represented by the cookie, was a rather unlikely candidate for such a hat as he was Persian. Instead, Gilbert claimed, the cookies were actually anatomical, and represented Queen Esther. The hamentaschen is the “oldest piece of erotic pastry,” and thus is superior over the lowly round latke. “I will never be able to look at a hamantaschen the same way again,” said Dean Gross.

The latke, a potato pancake fried in oil, is traditionally served at Hannukah. Dean Gross approached the latke as a solution for the ultimate question: What is life for? Obviously, it’s for latkes. “The potato is ripped from the loamy earth…once shredded it takes a delicate form…like life.” Of other ingredients, the onion’s many layers are also like life, the egg represents “the beginning of life, what came before the chicken, and omelets,” the salt represents the ocean and the pepper is “a little taste of exotica.” The latke “tells us all we really need to know about.”

Gilbert’s rebuttal to Gross was a complete concession to Gross’s “meaning of life” argument. Gross told of how he had courted his eventual wife with traditional Jewish food. The final conclusion? “Jewish cooking…is the best aphrodisiac.” “Does that lead to a 40-year marriage?” “I have to keep cooking them,” Gross finished. The audience enjoyed excellent latkes and hamantaschen thanks to Ruach.

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