Are you here for applesauce or sour cream?

NORTH COUNTY — It’s a truth universally known that in Jewish households all over the world, during the Festival of Lights, one of the things most debated at the table is what you are going to put on top of your latkes. Applesauce or sour cream?

For clarification, latkes are shredded potato pancakes fried in oil. They’re a reminder, like lighting the Menorah, of the miracle of Hanukkah, when the Maccabean Jews reclaimed Jerusalem from the hands of the Seleucid Empire [Syrian-Greeks] and rededicated the Holy Temple to God in 164 BCE.

Basically, for eight nights, we eat a lot of food fried in oil while we light the eight candles on the Menorah that commemorates one night’s worth of untainted oil, miraculously lasting eight nights, while new oil was prepared for the candelabrum in the reclaimed temple. At least, that’s the simple version of the tale.


But, back to latkes, which are one of the best foods on the planet and something that makes Hanukkah one of my personal favorite holidays of the year. Traditionally, there are two toppings, applesauce or sour cream, to put on top of these deliciously delectable potato pancakes (unless you eat them plain, or go completely non-traditional, which is an option too). 

The sweet tang of applesauce adds a contrasty punch to the potatoes and green onions, which make up latkes, while also cutting the grease from frying them.

On the other hand, sour cream, while also adding its own version of tartness, can weigh the fried potato cakes down with dairy.

So, the debate of which topping goes better is a thing that already has and will, once again, be discussed as families and friends sit around the table on Hanukkah, dolloping their favorite topping onto their latkes. That is if both options are even available.

While there is no true answer as to which topping is the proper one, and we may never have an official answer, at least we have options. Even if we all know the only correct latke topper is applesauce.   

This year, the eight crazy, fun and festive nights of Hanukkah started the night of Sunday, Dec. 18, and will continue until Monday, December 26. That’s right, this year, Hanukkah overlaps with Christmas. But don’t get confused; Hanukkah is not Jewish Christmas. The food itself makes that obvious. There are also jelly doughnuts involved.

So whether you’re schmearing applesauce or sour cream on your latkes, just remember the fact that you’re eating them in the first place is a miracle in and of itself.