This Thanksgiving, the American festival of eating will coincide with the Jewish Festival of Lights in a holiday match-up that has been dubbed Thanksgivukkah.
Thanksgiving will coincide with the first day of Hanukkah for the first time since 1888, and it won’t happen again for nearly 78,000 years.
Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over Syrian forces, and the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated during the battles. It also celebrates the miracle of the oil, when a day’s worth of oil in the temple lamps lasted for eight days.
The holiday traditions focus on the oil, which is why Jews light candles on the menorah and celebrate for eight nights, and why Hanukkah foods are always fried.
Many folks have been having fun with this match-up. There are websites and Facebook pages devoted to the topic, which has sparked any number of products including a turkey-shaped menorah.
And of course, there are plenty of recipe suggestions: A turkey brined in Manischewitz wine, stuffing made of challah bread, a sweet potato kugel — all of which have potential.
Latkes — pancakes made of shredded potatoes and fried in oil — are perhaps the best known and most popular Hanukkah food, and local Jewish cooks I talked to said they will likely be on their Thanksgiving tables.
“Basically, we are going to do a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but throw in some Hanukkah fare,” said chef Jeff Winer, a food truck operator in the Akron area.
“Potato latkes with horseradish and smoked turkey drizzled with a cranberry gastrique,” he suggested.
Unlike the Jewish holidays of Passover and Rosh Hashana, which have serious food traditions, Hanukkah is not as food-focused, which makes it easier to combine the two, Winer said.
Mark Kent, a chef who teaches culinary arts at the University of Akron, said he always has a house full for Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah will only add to the celebration. “I will probably serve some latkes with the turkey,” he said.
Akron resident Abby Cymerman said she has been trying to figure out a way to combine the two holidays at the table and thinks she may have come up with a solution.
“I’m thinking of making individual green bean casseroles in crispy latke cups,” she said.
Green bean casserole is as American as the turkey and pumpkin pie, and Cymerman said her plan is to ladle the casserole into each cup.
Cymerman was still working on the mechanics of how she would fry her grated potato mixture into cup shapes, perhaps forming them on a cupcake tin.
“It may be a disaster waiting to happen, but I think it’s a nice way to combine both holidays,” she said.
But Cymerman has come up with a riff on a very long-standing Akron tradition — potato baskets for holding creamed dishes. Longtime Akron residents will recognize her idea as very similar to the creamed chicken in a nest that was a popular menu item at the former Kaase’s Restaurant in downtown Akron. There is a device called a basket fryer that will do the job of forming the fried cups easily, too.
It’s Hanukkah, it’s Thanksgiving, and for a third layer, it’s all Akron.
Now that’s a holiday tradition worth keeping.