Viewing the Win of the Macabees in a Different Light
As a Nutritionist, Hanukkahis not always my favorite holiday. It’s all about the oil. While I don’t believe in super low fat diets, I also don’t believe in 8 days of deep fried potatoes smothered in sour cream and sweet, sticky, doughy donuts. I’m constantly asked for healthy latke and donut recipes, or just how many latkes is reasonable to eat with brisket (10, right?), or if its okay to down a whole bag of gelt. (For the record- non-fried latkes and healthy donuts just don’t taste great, so just have 1 or 2 small latkes with a tablespoon of sour cream).
Now, I know you are expecting some sort of magical latke recipe that doesn’t use a lot of oil and is still incredible, but that’s just not possible. And although greasy latkes and sufganiyot can be delicious, food on Hanukkah doesn’t have to be just about the oil. So, in the spirit of the holiday, I want to offer you some food ideas that have nothing to do with oil (GASP!)
While one miracle of Hanukkah is the oil, another is the unexplainable and unpredictable victory of the Macabees over the Greeks. There are so many texts in the Jewish tradition that speak of celebrating victory by being a poor winner (For example, when the Israelites danced after crossing the Red Sea and witnessing the deaths of all of Pharoah’s soldiers). One of the many ways that we can respect our tradition is to challenge it, and this is a concept that I think deserves a challenge.
Both at camp and at home, we should be teaching our kids to be respectful of the other side when they win to avoid hurt feelings and shaming. Now, I’m not suggesting that the Macabees should have invited the Greeks into the Temple for a festive meal following their victory, but when we look at the story in hindsight it is important to remember the value of the lives that were lost and all that was destroyed in the battle. We must teach our children that the world is not a black and white place filled with winners and losers, but that best way to be a mensch is to respectfully shake your opponent’s hand and wish them well. With that in mind, have your latkes one night, but why not also have a Greek themed meal to honor those whom we defeated to teach our children what it means to be a gracious winner. Below you will find a delicious Greek white bean stew that will help your family honor all who fought in the story of Channukah.
Greek white bean stew
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic
- 4 medium sprigs of fresh oregano
- 2 14 ounce cans white beans
- 2 14 ounce cans diced tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
- 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- Dice onion
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepot over high heat. Add onion and saute about 5 minutes, until translucent and starting to brown.
- Meanwhile, mince the garlic.
- Add the garlic and the oregano to the pan and continue to cook 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned and fragrant but not burnt.
- Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans well.
- Add the beans and tomatoes to the pan and season with salt and pepper (lightly because the feta is salty).
- Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes.
- Mix in dill and top with feta and enjoy!