a lit menorah on a dining table

Hearing the frying pan sizzle as the potato hits the oil, I am pleasantly reminded that my favorite dish is in its final stage. The women in my family have been making latkes for generations. These delectable starchy goodies bring memories of past Decembers – both of  Hanukkah and my birthday, sharing the same month and a perfect opportunity to reflect on the year past.

My comfort food is almost ready, except it isn’t.

As I hover over the pan, I think of my mom gently pushing me away, reminding me that although it will be served shortly, it still takes time before the dish is ready to be served. My impatience rising, I wonder why it takes so long to fry these delicious potato pancakes.  

carrots on brown wooden chopping board

Learning from my ancestors and taking a deep breath, I smile, reflecting that the best latkes take time.

You only flip them once, ensuring that the edges are golden brown. Stirring them in the pan, they don’t stay idle but move around in the oil intact. It feels like a lot of effort for my local potluck where a group of us are organizing a plan of action to canvas the surrounding area to encourage people to vote. I’m wondering why I’m making all this effort when something simple like chips and dip would suffice. I think about my grandma and all the occasions she made my favorite dishes – all the energy, time, and effort. I needed to channel that spirit as a wait for the latke edges to turn golden. 

Were generations before encouraged to maintain these culinary traditions? Where and when did they begin? Was it during an exile period needing to use whatever ingredients were available? Thinking of the main staples of the dish – potatoes, the starchy vegetable that provides sustenance for people around the globe. The onion, the layers of sorrow and joy – a  base for this dish served during the holidays. The oil, symbolic of hope and perseverance. All of these elements coming together to form this delicious oval pancake permeating with possibilities.

I wonder about the future possibilities of our collective as I flip the latkes. 

With the opaque potato mixture hitting the oil, sizzling and popping, I think about my emotions and the importance of collective impact. With everything that we’ve experienced this year, between the ongoing pandemic, overwhelming climate change, deep social analysis and recalibration – I feel compelled to take part in direct action. Connecting with people from various backgrounds and realities, I am encouraged that we each can (and do) make a difference for the planet. Eating one less beef meal, picking up trash at my local beach, minimizing my plastic consumption – these are just some of the ways that a micro-action can make a major environmental impact. 

Being passive and complacent is no longer an option.

people sitting on brown wooden bench during daytime

We must use our voices in productive ways and directly show each other that every small act adds up to make a profound change to embrace our role as stewards for our Planet Home.  

Despite the challenges our planet faces, I don’t have to look far to find glimmers of courage.  I think of my neighbor fighting food insecurity in our area one meal at a time. Another neighbor from Nicaragua bakes cakes every Sunday to raise money for legal funds for children displaced from their homes and families. My neighborhood association organizes a monthly beach clean up – a great way to build community and contribute to a more sustainable environment. 

Brought back to the moment, I look down at the frying pan where the latkes glisten in the oil.  Sizzling like small vibrating neutrons, moving around the pan like a slow dance, methodically undulating. The golden edges appear perfectly brown and, no matter what, I could not rush the process. As I pack up the latkes for the monthly gathering, I realize that patience and persistence pays off.

We have the power to change our circumstances through direct action – one moment at a time. 

silhouette of people standing on mirror during golden hour