Jon Zimmerman

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Jon Zimmerman
is a Seattle attorney who served on the advisory group of the Cardozo Society of Washington State from 2008 to 2011. He has been enjoying latkes since the 20th century. He lives in Seward Park.

Image: Sefira Ross

As the Northwest leaves don bright hues before falling to their huddle on the ground, only to be trampled by the cool days of winter, a great debate ensues: is the latke or the hamantaschen the better Jewish food? Jewish explorers have formally debated the merits of latkes versus hamantaschen for close to a century and likely informally for far longer, though to this consumer of countless latkes and hamantaschen, the latke is hands-down the better choice. 

In my experience, no Jewish holiday food warms the heart more than the latke, that fried potato pancake our Jewish community shares and enjoys each year during Hanukkah. The texture of latkes, made from potatoes grated or ground, is soft, while the shape is round and continuous; unapologetically, hamantaschen are typically hard and edgy. While hamantaschen make a great dessert, only latkes, which can be served with sour cream or applesauce, among other items, can really make a meal. While hamantaschen make an appearance for only one day a year in the Jewish calendar, latkes might be served at Hanukkah parties for eight crazy nights! 

Here in the state of Washington, latkes actually stimulate the economy and our multibillion-dollar potato industry. Hamantaschen simply can’t compete. Our latke-consuming community is blessed that Grant County, in central Washington, is the top producer of potatoes, measured in per-acre yield, in the entire United States. The county that is home to places such as Moses Lake and Ephrata helps to supply potatoes not only to our local communities in Washington that make some of the best latkes in the land, but also to latke lovers throughout the world. Next time you think about making latkes, think about buying local and purchasing some of the approximately 10 percent of Washington potatoes that remain in our state. 

When you’re looking for a meal that will warm your heart as well as your soul, and when you find yourself unsure about what to make for dinner, follow the wisdom of our ancestors: Keep Calm and Eat Latkes.

Sarah C. Stroup

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Sarah C. Stroup
is a professor of Classics at the University of Washington focusing on the textual cultures of the ancient world, spectacle and violence, and Mediterranean archaeology.

Image: Sefira Ross

Stroup, S. C. “Picking Up the Pieces: Two Recent Fragments on the Pastry as Subaltern Other in Archaic Greek Poetry.” Hermeneutika vol. 18:3, 23–4. Recently to light are two exciting fragments of Sappho which contribute both to the ongoing discourse on culinary gendering in the pre-classical word (Kopper, T., 1943. “Crumbling the Pastryarchy: Women’s Work in the Final Decade of the 7th c BCE, Carthage.” Punic Research Monthly [PRM], 123–67), and to the concomitant overarching lack of New World tubers, fried or otherwise transformed into a mechanism of state control, in the ancient Mediterranean. Sappho predictably writes in the voice of a mother or lover, addressing a young woman whose abandonment is recast as a jubilant victory in the realization that her lover never actually existed. And anyway, he is gone. The two fragments, united:

[1] You never stop babbl[ing about] your Lat[kos] / [2] my starry  Amensachê […] thundering sh[ore] / [3] … Golden flaky (?) thighs [… / [4] wind-
blushing […] / [5] ah [… /  … delta  […] like a hyac[inth] / [6] Like a poppy [that ha]s burst and / [7] … with ferret once crush[ed? / [8] Wa[rm] and laugh[ter?] [9] … Flashing st[ain]ed teeth [… / [10] Like [a] Queen from [the Ea]st / [11] … a …. but  … vengeance, flashing [eyes?] / [12] [he?] is gone,  across    f / [13] …] far seas as hard and un[loving] / [14] as you are soft and [ / [15] He is gone. / [16] [He] n[ever was?].

COMMENTARY 1. Latkos, or perhaps Latkhuios; otherwise unattested. Cretan? 2. “Starry”: asteria, a reference both to Amensachê’s appearance and, as highly unlikely, to the Eastern deity Ishtar/Esther. A-mens–asche (Attic Hamentaschê): lit. “One who is held out of her mind”; here, moved to a state of distraction by longing for an inconsequential, ultimately (sexually?) disappointing lover. The point is not lost: linguistic rationalism is as absent as is Latkos; we are no less Amensachê, abandoned on the shore. 7. This line makes no sense. I mean really, what the hell? 12. Notice the f solitarium. Evocative. Bold. 15–16. In the striking inversion of beloved and lover, of abandoned and abandoner, Sappho suggests Latkos’s desertion — or has he never arrived? — has rendered him inconsequential, impotent, soggy beyond recognition or tolerance. Desertion recast as nonbeing. Mic drop. Bold. 

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