Lessons in Latkes

If you knew what I knew about making latkes, you'd be terrible

Instead, sizzle turned to fizzle on the very first batch. Rather than becoming puffy and crisp, they turned soggy and limp. It almost seemed like they had stopped frying before they even started, though the oil was bubbling when I spooned the first few in. In fact they had quit cooking, as Mrs. Wilson realized when she came to check on me. The burner had actually turned itself off. "Oh, that one is always shorting out," she said. "It's only good for a few minutes." She pulled out a double burner and plugged it in as a replacement.

The second batch of oil never heated up to proper scalding temperatures, though, making me reminisce about the only element I liked when I lived in New Jersey: gas stoves. What I wouldn't give this season for a pilot light.

Then again, even during Hanukkah, one can't blame or credit everything on the oil. It was time I faced up to my other problem -- the latke batter was unbalanced, too watery, and short on the all-important ingredient of salt. The end result, which took me about an hour to accomplish, was a tray of some of the nastiest latkes I have ever seen, let alone made; about as tired and played-out as Silly Putty that has seen one too many comic books.

Still, one little boy ate five of them. Brave soul, be mine. The only golden coins my own offspring downed that day were the perfectly formed chocolate gelt that I brought as a bribe -- I mean, for dessert. After all, token or not, it never hurts to end on a sure thing.

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