Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Underground Railroad Museum, Potato Latkes, and the Hunger for Freedom

           On Thanksgiving weekend, we had a few free hours in Cincinnati so we toured the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Expecting to stay an hour or two, we were surprised when five hours later we realized it was time to leave. The museum, with its combination of exhibits and videos, sends anyone visiting a powerful message. In it, the story of the slave trade in America is told from the beginning to the end, celebrating the bravery of slaves as they risked their lives on the Underground Railroad and helped others to escape as well. It also celebrates the bravery of the Abolitionists who assisted them. Since Cincinnati is just across the river from Kentucky, it was the first stop across the Mason-Dixon line for many slaves running to freedom. Although they had a long way to go until they were truly safe, Cincinnati is the appropriate place for this museum. If any of you find yourself in Cincinnati, I definitely recommend spending a few hours there.

            The visit inspired me to read Amistad by Alexs Pate. (I had never seen the movie.) This inspiring book based on an actual historical event was the story of the people aboard a slave ship bound for Cuba who resisted becoming slaves and struggled to regain their freedom with the help of abolitionists and eventually, former President John Quincy Adams. Highlighting the leader of the revolt, the author was able to personalize the universal quest for respect and human dignity in a way that enabled readers to connect.

            These two events – visiting the Underground Railroad Museum and reading Amistad- happened right before and during Chanukah, a holiday celebrating another victory for freedom. I actually finished reading Amistad on the eighth day of Chanukah. This calls for potato latkes (pancakes). They are traditionally eaten on Chanukah because they are fried in oil symbolizing the oil lasting in the Temple for eight days. They’re also eaten because they’re delicious.

            I used the recipe for latkes that my mother-in-law Mildred Sachs gave me many years ago. The one flaw in this recipe is that no matter how many are made, it’s never enough. Everyone eats them until they’re gone. You won’t have leftovers from this recipe, but you’ll enjoy eating them while they last.

                                                            Potato Latkes

2 big white potatoes peeled and grated
1 onion diced small
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons of flour
2 Tablespoons of matzoh meal
A dash of baking powder
2 eggs
Vegetable oil

  1. Dice the onion
  2. Peel and grate the potato and strain to get extra starch out
  3. Beat the eggs.
  4. Mix all the ingredients into a batter
  5. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan. Make the batter into patties with a spoon and drop in the oil to fry. When they’re golden brown on bottom side, turn them over to fry on the other side.
  6. Serve with sour cream or applesauce.


Anonymous said...

I believe if you'd seen the movie it would have a greater impact on you. The boat mutiny was brutal in the movie. What really stood out for me was the court trial and the president's actions.

Thank you for the potato latkes. I've tried to make them general style and they fell apart. But I love potatoes, cooked any way. I'm going to make your recipe.

Lisa Sachs said...

Thank you, Minnie. It's funny you should say that about the movie. Yesterday I went to the library and found the DVD. I intend to watch it some time this week. Enjoy the potato latkes.