Hanukkah is here. The candles, the wishes and the table full of latkes and sufganyiot. The Internet is fully packed with pictures of these iconic foods that represent the miracle of the oil at the temple in the time of Maccabeus.ย 

As most people know it celebrates the fact that one unique portion of oil, supposed to last for one single day, made it to the eighth journey.

This year, while frying the latkes, staring at the bubbling oil, the annual symposium the โ€œLatke vs. Hamantashenโ€ came to my mind.

This annual debate held by University of Chicago Hillel since 1946 has compiled over 7 decades of knowledge from the field of physics, philosophy, mathematics, or science to demonstrate if either latke or Hamantashen were better.

The result is we have an amazing, hilarious database about why latke are the best. Here, I picked 5 reasons, from biblical to energy field that make latke incomparable to any other treat. Get your portion and enjoy:


According to philosophical reasoning latke are simply perfect

Ted Cohen, concluded an analysis of how correct philosophical reasoning would lead one to the latke.

His words: โ€œTrue philosophy leads to the latke. I shall not be showing that the latke is, in a simple sense, โ€œbetterโ€ than the hamantash. That cannot be done, for the latke and the hamantash are not commensurate. The hamantash is a very, very good thing of its kind. The latke, however, is a perfect thing.โ€ย 

Continued with this extended argument:

โ€œAppreciation is not perfect if in order to enjoy an object fully you must take into account what kind of thing it is. Most modern art is like this: you must know in advance what the artist thought he was doing if you are to make sense of his art. Think of it: a latke needs to have no particular shape, no required color, no conceptual preconditions (potato is best, of course, but even this is not of essence). The latke is the emblem of taste and art itself. And so: there can be no taste where there is not taste for latkesโ€

“A world without hamantashen would be a wretched world. A world without hamantashen might be unbearable. But a world without latkes is unthinkable.” Ted Cohen


People’s search for latke, not hamantaschen or sufganiyot

At MIT, Robert J. Silbey, dean on its School of Science, cited Google, which returned 380.000 hits on search for “latke” and only 62.000 for “Hamantaschen”. That was in 2006, nowadays in 2021, it returns 4.970.000 hits for latke, only 438.000 hits for Hamantaschen and just 425.000 for sufganiyot.

It is clear, latkes are much more universal and cared for. Luckily, it is not compiting with cheesecake with its 485.000.000 hits.ย 

On the other hand, Silbey quoted research suggesting that a latke diet prolongs life in mice. Unfortunetly we can’t check the study to see how many latkes should be eaten daily in order to get the results.ย 


Latke is extensively mentioned in rabbinic literature

In 1984 yiddishist and professor of computer science Raphael Finkel pointed out that in the rabbinic literature there are extensive hallachic discussions concerning latkes. Here as an example:

โ€œI want to raise your consciousness (and maybe your gorge) and explain to you the Torah-true Halakhic way in which latkes must be prepared, according to Rambam’s Sefer:

The potato must be healthy. Any potato unable to swim upstream with the current is considered sick, and you have to wait until it recovers before you can use it.

You have to properly slaughter the potatoes. You need a knife sharp enough, in the words of the Rambam, so that it can cut 30 bunches of krokhmal in 10 strokes. I expect that’s pretty sharp.

If there are any eyes on the potato, they must be facing up, so the potato doesn’t see the knife coming.”


Latke on energy efficiency

In 2010 Aaron Dinner, Chemistry professor, argued that latke had by far (maybe not that far) a better ionic conductivity. Comparing results between hamantaschen and latke, only latke and hamantaschen filled with traditional filling, not modern ones, were able to show conductivity above 0.90 V. If you can not picture it in you mind, check here at minute 7 how these foods are able to conduct electrons to light a led.

On the other hand, in 2014 Aaron came back. This time to show that the latke is eight times more efficient than the hamantash. The theory was based on how one portion of the miracle oil (2:03:00), an essential ingredient of the latkes, was able to last for 8 rounds.ย 

โ€œThe hamantaschen comes from a violent story, the latke represents warmth; a motherโ€™s love.โ€ Robert J. Silbey


Latke was mentioned on the Supreme Court

What else is there to say? Latke has had the honour of being mentioned on the Supreme Court. Something, as far as I know, that canโ€™t be said by any other one jewish food.ย 

The participants in the debate quoted from the opinion of Justice Blackmun in the case County of Allegheny v. ACLU. The case was about if two public-sponsored holiday displays, one a nativity scene, the other a menorah, constitute state endorsement of the religion that would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment – Theย Establishment Clause prohibits the government from establishing or creating a religion in any way-.

Blackmun said menorah was not violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, based on location and size. In his argumentation he compared it to other traditions without an endorsement consequence like: “It is also a custom to serve potato pancakes or other fried foods on Chanukah because the oil in which they are fried is, by tradition, a reminder of the miracle of Chanukah.”ย 

The crispy, golden fried amount of potato and onion transformed into the main star of Hanukkah, an incomparable food of joy and tradition with tons of hilarious, soft and solemn reason to be eaten every year.ย 

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