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Eight Days of Hanukkah Food Safety

Posted in Food Safety,Our Blog on December 20, 2019

Growing up as a military brat afforded me many experiences in life. One of my most cherished would be the cultures I had the pleasure of being a part of. From the Deep South and the rich history, beautiful landscapes, and celebrated diversity all the way to the far North with its delicious Maine lobster, black sand beaches, and winters buried under the snow; I’ve loved every minute of it. My favorite place, without having to think about it, would have to be New York. This is where I learned about the wonderful holiday that is Hanukkah. And you guessed it, this post is all about Hanukkah Food Safety.

A Boy in the City

My friends there are a mixed bag of nationalities as well as beliefs. Since Hanukkah is days away, I am reminded of one friend in particular: we will call her Jane. It is important to understand first that I was raised in a Protestant family with little exposure to other “religions” and what they practice. Getting invited to celebrate a Jewish holiday was very exciting and would also give me the opportunity to experience something new. Of course there was the food to think about since I have loved new foods since I was little.

I will spare you the history lesson (not meaning to offend) due to word count restrictions. If you’re like me, check out what Hanukkah is and where it originated. For the purpose of our time together today, I want to focus on the food eaten during the celebration, touch on the fried food dilemma, and raise awareness when it comes to food safety during Hanukkah.

Arriving at Jane’s house a few hours before meant there was time to meet her family and field questions about who I was. Her and I were strictly classmates and once we made that clear her parents felt more at ease. To say they were old-fashioned and didn’t want their daughter dating a non-Jewish guy would be an understatement. We assured them of our friendship and my curiosity and all was well.

The evening was full of laughter, presents, candle lighting and food. I have never tasted food so odd but so delicious before. Knowing what I know now, I would have been a bit on the concerned side as we will discuss in a moment but I didn’t care back then.

From what I remember there were Latkes (fried potato pancakes), brisket, cheese, and jelly-filled sugar donuts. I am sure I am leaving something out but that was twenty years ago. I blame my love of all donuts today on those amazing jelly-filled ones. That is my story at least.

After dinner, we sat around the table and listened as Jane’s father told us of the history of his people, the history of how Hanukkah came to be, and a little about the Jewish faith. After, I had a new perspective and respect for my Jewish friends.

According to Jewish history, a temple was rededicated after overcoming great oppression and a small amount of oil was used to light a candle. That candle miraculously burned for eight days hence the eight days of Hanukkah. Some believe this is why so many of the dishes made during Hanukkah are deep fried. Whatever the reason, it is not hard to see fried foods are eaten a lot during this time.

The FDA has reported on the dangers of too much fried food in our diets ad nauseam. I believe it is important to look at and understand what fried foods can do to the body. According to healthline.com, here are the main points to consider when consuming fried foods:

  • Fried foods are high in calories – fried foods contain more calories than their non-fried counterparts. Eating a lot of them can significantly increase your caloric intake.
  • Fried foods are typically high in trans fats – fried foods are often cooked in processed vegetable or seed oils. When heated, these oils can form trans fats, which are associated with a number of health problems.
  • Eating fried foods may increase your risk of disease
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Fried foods may contain harmful Acrylamide – animal studies suggest that dietary intakes of acrylamide may increase the risk of several types of cancer, but more studies are needed to say for sure.

I am in no way trying to scare anyone. There are oil alternatives as well as deep frying alternatives too. Again, do the research before you cook.

Food safety during a very important time in Jewish tradition is not something in the front of people’s minds. There are a few points to remember when cooking, eating, and enjoying these particular foods. Feel free to add any to the list and let me know when you have.

  • Never leave the kitchen when frying foods.
  • Keep water away from hot oil.
  • Do not pour a huge amount of oil in your frying pan.
  • Flip food carefully in the pan.
  • Keep your oven fan on while frying with oil.

Take the time to read this from the USDA before deep frying foods. One important fact to understand is: Deep frying oil can reach temperatures of over 400 degrees. When cooking at this temperature, extreme safety measures should be taken to prevent burning oneself or starting a fire. Like other oils, cooking oil is a highly flammable liquid. To prevent flare-ups and house fires, avoid letting oil contact direct flames. Because of this hazard, it is highly recommended to have a kitchen fire extinguisher available when deep-frying.

Hanukkah begins December 22nd and ends December 30th. Even if you are not of the Jewish faith it is important for us to understand what this special holiday is about. Take the time to read about when Hanukkah started and why. If you have the opportunity to spend an evening with a Jewish friend during Hanukkah, do it. You will not regret it.

If you are getting ready to celebrate Hanukkah, take the time to read more on keeping you and your family safe while cooking. We at makefoodsafe.com want to make sure everyone is safe during this time of year. Eat, celebrate, and remember to have a latke for me. Cheers for Hanukkah Food Safety. Happy Hanukkah.

By: Dwight Spencer, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)