Thousands of Miles from Home


Journies Into Cultural Cooking

On certain occasions (and I call them occasions because they happen only occasionally) I have cooked food for my host family in Japan. So far I've been lucky and nothing has exploded and/or poisoned anyone. But when it comes to making latkes (defined as "a pancake, especially one made of grated potato"), it might be more of a curse than a friendly gesture to cook them in someone else's kitchen (due to a lingering oil smell that attacks clothing, hair, and any exposed skin). However, Shoko has cooked many deep fried oil dishes, so I didn't think the burning oil and potato smell would bother her too much.

I have not had much personal experience with latke preparation outside of Morgantown's world famous Latke Birgade, which I sorely missed participating in this year. However, at this outpost in Tamano, Japan, I had my own latke celebration (shlivowitz not included). While there are many variations, the latke recipe is inherently basic: potatoes, onions, some eggs and flour, then into hot oil until crispy and brown (no latke before it's time). I found that the most difficult stage of the process had to have been grating the onion. I haven't cried that hard in a long time. Shoko had gone to the store to buy some apples for my homemade apple sauce, so luckily no one witnessed my red-eyed display.

I guess pictures are better than words, but a few tears and oil burns later I had a good amount of crispy, gold delicious potato pancakes. I also made appsauce, which to the culinary beginner such as myself might sound rather impressive. It truth I put chopped apples in the microwave for 10 minutes, or until mushy. Then top with brown sugar and serve. My whole host family loved both the latkes and applesauce (even Shun who is very picky), and Andee came over the next day to finish off what we didn't eat. Next time I'll have to make a larger batch.

As a funny side story, my host family had a jewish boy stay with them a few years ago. His family sent him a menorah for Chanukkah, and every night he lit the candles and put the menorah in the window of the Watanabe's house. One night, after all the candles were lit, the family woke up the next day to find the window cracked and melted where the menorah had been. Oy Vey!


Post a Comment

<< Home