Anchovies on Hanukkah? Here’s a good reason why…
The book of Judith is commonly associated with Hanukkah (keep reading – I will get back to the anchovies!). It is a favourite of mine for various reasons. The story is generally regarded as an early work of historical fiction, one of my favourite genres. I also love a strong Jewish heroine – they’re not so easy to come by. As well as being devout and exquisitely beautiful, Judith is a woman of action.
Judith’s town of Bethulia is besieged by the Assyrian army, led by cruel General Holofernes, a heartless man who shows no mercy for his victims – women and children included. Starving and thirsty, all hope abandoned, the townspeople are ready to surrender. Judith, however, is the exception – a woman to be reckoned with. Accompanied by her maidservant, she approaches the enemy camp. Relying on her wits and beauty, she persuades the guards she has information that will help the Assyrians capture Bethulia. Judith is clearly convincing. The guards admit her into the camp and escort her to the tent of General Holofernes, himself.
Holofernes is beguiled by Judith’s beauty and invites her to stay a while. Judith accepts the invitation. Shortly thereafter, according to some accounts, she offers Holofernes a large quantity of salty cheese to eat. He eats the cheese and becomes very thirsty, imbibing a whole lot of wine in order to slake his thirst. Consequently, Holofernes ends up in a hazy, drunken stupor, allowing Judith to seize his sword and cut off his head. Then, cool as a cucumber, Judith tucks Holofernes’ head into a bag, takes leave of the camp, and returns to her town where she does what I imagine to be a rather dramatic show and tell for the town leaders.
The people of Bethulia, their spirits renewed by Judith’s good tidings, launch an attack on the Assyrians. The Assyrians are shocked at finding themselves with no commander (or rather, with a headless commander), and flee for their lives. Judith saves the day!
At this point, you may quite reasonably be asking, “So where do the anchovies fit in?” Well, I propose that we pay tribute to Judith’s crafty use of salty cheese by including a few well salted foods in our Hanukkah festivities. But why choose the anchovy, when in today’s society, other less fishy and equally salty foods abound. The answer is found in the perfection of the following recipe for polenta and anchovy fritters, which combines the saltiness of anchovies with the traditional Hanukkah custom of frying in plenty of hot oil. The fritters are actually delicious, provide an unusual alternative to latkes, and with their salty anchovies and cheese, pay a food based tribute to Judith at Hanukkah time.
Stuffed Polenta Fritters
adapted from Cucina Ebraica, Flavours of the Italian Jewish Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein
(For a dairy free version, simply exclude the cheese. The fritters are still very tasty.)
1 cup cornmeal
4 cups of water
1 tsp salt
A couple of jars of anchovies
¼ lb grated mozzarella cheese
1-2 eggs, beaten lightly
Flour for dusting
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Combine polenta, water and salt in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking occasionally. Turn heat down to a simmer and stir frequently until the mixture is very thick. This will take about 30 minutes.
Pour the mixture onto a greased baking sheet and chill until firm.
Rinse the anchovies gently. Place them in a saute pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the anchovies soften and melt. Remove from the heat.
Cut the chilled polenta into rounds. Spread half of them with the anchovy puree and sprinkle with some grated cheese. Top them with the remaining rounds.
Pour vegetable oil into a wide, deep pan to a depth of 2 inches. Heat oil over medium-high heat (to about 375 degrees F). If you don’t have a thermometer, make certain that the oil is hot enough by dropping in a bit of polenta. If it bubbles energetically, you’re good to go. Meanwhile, beat eggs until blended and spread some flour on a plate.
Dip polenta sandwiches a few at a time into the beaten egg, then into the flour. Carefully place them into the hot oil and fry, turning once, until nice and golden (about 4 minutes in total). Do NOT overcrowd the pan or you will end up with soggy, greasy sandwiches. Place golden sandwiches on paper towels to drain. Serve warm and ENJOY!
Latkaland Dreidl Treats
Lunchkins sometimes enjoy these as treats when they want a change from chocolate gelt. They are fun (and quick) to make.
Jujube type candies or mini-marshmallows
Break a toothpick in half.
Push the pointy end of the toothpick through the jujube or mini-marshmallow until the point is just sticking out.
Hold the toothpick and jujube with one hand, pointy end facing up. Gently press the flat end of a chocolate chip onto the pointy tip. If the chocolate chip splits, don’t fret. Just eat it, and try again with another one.
Now spin your candy dreidl (on a clean surface like a plate), then gobble it up!
A frequent topic of holiday discussion amongst my children and their non-Jewish friends is that of gift giving. The friend will wistfully ask: “Is it true that Jewish kids get a present every night of Hanukkah?” To which my kids have to reply: “Maybe in some families, but not in ours.”
Whether Hanukkah presents are doled out on one, two or eight nights is simply a matter of choice for individual families. In fact, Jewish tradition does not say anything about Hanukkah presents, (more…)
Click on the games below for fun Hanukkah ideas.
Check in regularly as more Hanukkah ideas will be posted soon.
Kids can create their own Latkaland illustrations with these colouring pages.
This is the recipe that Oily and the Lunchkins (characters from Adventure in Latkaland) follow when they make their latkes. If you can’t find Potatoland potatoes in your neighbourhood grocery store, russet potatoes are an excellent substitute.
A grownup should definitely help with this recipe – especially when the latkes have to be fried in lots and lots of boiling hot oil!
4-5 Potatoland (or russet) potatoes, peeled
1 small onion, peeled
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
Lots of vegetable oil for frying
Grate the potato and the onion. Your grownup helper can use the grating attachment on a food processor for this step – it’s much faster.
Squeeze as much liquid out of the potato-onion mixture as you can. The Lunchkins use two different methods:
These cute puppets are simple to make. The samples in the picture are based on Latkaland characters, but you can make the puppets into any character that you would like. They would make great Maccabees for Hanukkah!
For 1 puppet, you will need:
a styrofoam ball
a popsicle stick
a styrofoam cup
a pair of googly eyes
a bit of yarn (for hair)
a couple of pipecleaners (one sparkly)
Optional: fabric scraps, ribbon, cardboard scraps
1. Put some glue on the end of the popsicle stick and push it into the styrofoam ball. If it won’t go, have a grown up make a small slit in the ball using a scissor. Now you have the Hanukkah (or other) puppet head.
2. Decorate your head. Glue on the googly eyes (or draw your own version) and draw a nose and mouth. Glue on some yarn for hair. If you’d like, add a felt kippah or a foil helmet.
3. Decorate the styrofoam cup, which will be the puppet body. You can cover the cup with glue and wrap fabric around it (as we did in the picture) or colour it with markers and add some stickers. If you are using fabric, have a grownup figure out where the pipecleaner arms will go, and make two small cuts in the fabric before glueing it onto the cup. You can also add a cape or ribbon or other decorations…it’s up to you.
4. Push a pipecleaner through the cup (and the holes in the fabric). Now your puppet has arms. Trim the pipecleaner so that the arms are the right length – but remember to leave room to bend the ends into hands.
5. Make a sword out of the glittery pipecleaner (use about 1/3 of the pipecleaner) and a shield out of the cardboard if you’d like. You can attach the shield to your puppet by punching two small holes through the cardboard and pushing the pipecleaner hand through.
6. Cut a small slit in the top of the cup, and push the popsicle stick through so that the head sits on top of the cup. Your puppet will be able to move it’s head from side to side and up and down (with your help, of course!). Make these with friends for Hanukkah – and make up your own Hanukkah puppet show.
The story of the Maccabees inspires us to have confidence in ourselves and to never lose hope.
A long, long time ago (almost 2,200 years), a wicked Greek-Syrian king named Antiochus became ruler over the Jews. Jerusalem, with its holy Temple, was part of his domain.
Antiochus was very cruel to the Jews. He filled the Temple with pagan idols and ordered the Jews to bow down to them. He declared that the Jews could not follow their own customs, or pray to God. Anyone caught breaking Antiochus’ rules would immediately be put to death.
A brave young man named Judah rallied the Jews to fight back. (more…)
A long standing Hanukkah tradition is the playing of the dreidl game, so here is some information about the dreidl, and directions for playing the game.
What is a dreidl?
A dreidl is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side. The letters, nun, gimel, hey and shin, stand for the words Nes gadol hayah sham – A great miracle happened there.
In Israel, the sham is replaced with a peh, and the word sham is replaced with po to say A great miracle happened here, as the Hanukkah miracles took place in what is now the State of Israel.
This is a quick, fun food craft that is also delicious to eat.
(for one menorah)
5 two-bite brownies (you can make your own, if you’d like, using your favourite brownie recipe and a mini-muffin tin)
6 sandwich cookies
9 small orange jelly beans (or red – these are your flames, so you choose)
Icing (store-bought is fine, or you can just make a paste with icing sugar and a few drops of milk or water)
A cardboard rectangle – about 11 inches by 3 inches (this can be cut from a shoe box, or any other box)
Tin foil – enough to completely cover the cardboard so that your menorah base is silver