from the New York Public Library (public domain)
Sunday is the first night of Hanukkah, and that means the Jews will roast Potato Latkes across the country and celebrate the age-old miracle of oil that has burned for eight nights.
In many ways, this delicious fat The treatment has not changed so much over time. Get a recipe from 80 years ago, and you'll find almost the same ingredients – grated potatoes with flour or matza, maybe a few onions for the taste and eggs for tying, fried in fat until they are nicely browned. In a cookbook of the early 20th century, however, there is one thing that would surprise today's Latke makers: Crisco. Yes, the Crisco.
To be clear, Crisco is not the fat of choice of the ancient Maccabees. And Eastern European Jews, who did not have much access to oil, would have fried poultry fat roasted in Schmaltz (usually chicken, although goose was a holiday favorite, if one had the means). But in the New World, that changed.
Kerri Steinberg wrote in her book Jewish Mad Men about the history of advertising and graphic design. She grew up with her mother's latkes fried in Crisco. Steinberg says the hydrogenated cottonseed oil in her mother's frying pan was probably there thanks to Joseph Jacobs. He was an advertising expert who founded an agency on the Lower East Side almost 100 years ago, which is still nearby today.
by The New York Public Library (public domain)
"He specializes in mixed marriages," jokes Steinberg. "Which means he introduced mainstream American manufacturers and products to the Jewish market."
With the European Jewish immigration wave of the early 20th century, this was a significant market and business of Procter & Gamble (P & G). General Foods hired Jacobs to find out about these potential customers. And these interests went both ways, as new immigrants were eager to Americanize.
"As soon as Jews live in a world of nation-states, they try to figure out how they can be German and Jewish or French and Jewish [Here,]. They try to figure out how to be American and Jewish," explains Rachel Gross, assistant professor for Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University.
One of Jacobs' Greatest Successes in the Market of Americanization of Jews The Maxwell House Haggadah was a standard holiday text to continue to drink religious Jews during the Passover.
And Because of the Dietary Restrictions of Staying Kosher Calling For the Separation of Meat and Dairy Products, Jacobs Recognized That Jews Are a Natural Market for a pareve (neither milk nor meat) vegetable product like Crisco were. In 1933 he turned directly to the Jewish-American identity, religious dietary requirements and interest in the latest "clean" and healthy nutrition science by developing a cookbook called Crisco Recipes for the Jewish Housewife . Both in Yiddish and in English, it showed the American households how they can use Crisco in all areas, from poppy seeds to stuffed cabbage to Chicken – Southern Style. And of course fried potatoe patties.
It was the perfect introduction to the Jewish American homeland of that time, which often spanned several generations. "The Yiddish-speaking mother will probably bring some knowledge and familiarity with traditional Ashkenazi baked goods and, according to Procter & Gamble, the English-speaking daughter is hoping she's ready to use modern products like Crisco," says Gross.
Crisco even made a radio commercial for the Jewish market, originally broadcast during the radio program "Hebrew Songs of Palestine". The book is courtesy of the Max and Frieda Weinstein Archive at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research:
Crisco Radio Advertising from the 1930s or 1940s
. And so Crisco was at least temporarily Hanukkah.
] With the increasing availability of various vegetable oils and increasing concern about trans fats, Crisco was beginning to fade away in the Jewish kitchen. Instead of grabbing their grandparents' Crisco, Latke fryers can rather experiment with Schmaltz – they go back to the tastes of their grandparents .
Professor Rachel Gross says when the holidays are coming, we think about the family and what it means to be part of a particular story. And if these stories are influenced by food, immigration and even product placement, that's fine. It's what Hanukkah is, Gross says – "Not some biblical story or the rabbinic stories that come later about miracles and oil, but get together and eat Latkes with your family or with your friends."
meaningful holiday, no matter what kind of fat in the pan.