Lots of Latkes!
We interrupt this website to make a special announcement:
The webmaster of this site, Chuck Reuben, has cooked a batch of potato pancakes, better known to members of his tribe as “latkes” (pronounced lot-kiss or lot-keys).
What makes this an historic occasion is that Chuck does not cook.
“Nope, I do not cook. I eat out,” said Chuck in an exclusive interview from the dining room of “The Hat” restaurant in Pasadena, California.
“At least I didn’t cook until yesterday,” he said as he devoured a pastrami dip and a small order of fries, “That’s when I had an epiphany.”
Chuck is on leave from his job as editorial technician at the University of New Mexico and is taking care of his 95-year-old mother at her retirement home. He and his mom had stocked up on food at Costco and then decided to round off the afternoon by eating at their favorite all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.
“Mom and I drove into the parking lot and we were stunned to see a large, hand-written ‘Closed for Business’ sign taped to the door. I looked into the window and the place had been gutted to the bare walls. I got really upset.”
Chuck, who had become accustomed to frequenting the Chinese buffet whenever he visited his mother spent the next hour searching for another buffet but came up empty-handed.
“I found a Mongolian buffet on Rosemead Blvd, but it just wasn’t the same,” he said sadly.
Chuck and his mom eventually gave up and ended up at a local In-N-Out Burger where they each ordered a double-double burger and an order of French fries.
“I can handle an In-N-Out Burger every now and then but I can’t eat them every freakin meal! Chinese buffets, on the other hand, I can eat every meal, so long as I break it up with an All-You-Can-Eat Souper Salad or an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet.
“I just never saw the point of cooking since the Chinese moved into Albuquerque,” Chuck said. “The food is so fresh, diverse and cheap. I mean, what’s the point in cooking at all?”
Yang Wan, proprietor of the Chinese Swan buffet in Albuquerque, spoke about Chuck after we e-mailed him his picture.
“Yeah, I know that guy,” said Yang. “He eat like starving pig. He eat and eat and eat and never stop eating. Just when you think he done, he want more. We put bill and fortune cookie on table to give him gentle hint but then he go back to eating. If all customer like him, we go out of business.”
“The way I see it,” continued Chuck, as he inhaled a dozen fries, “if that Chinese joint in Los Angeles can go out of business, then it might happen at home in Albuquerque and then I am gonna be soooo screwed. So that’s why I decided to cook something for the first time in my life.”
Chuck, the youngest of five children, or “the baby” as he is affectionately known by his siblings, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and became accustomed to being served by his mother, Ghita, until he finally left home for college.
“Oy Vez Mir, that boy has got one hollow leg,” 95-year-old Ghita said. “I don’t know where it all goes. They’re the biggest eaters, those skinny ones.”
When asked whether his partner cooks for him Chuck said snippily, “No. Jennifer is a supermodel and she requires the finest and most expensive organic food that money can buy. Quite frankly I cannot afford it, so I eat out instead. Chinese food is cheaper; there is more variety and it’s tastier than what Jennifer eats. Our relationship is not based on food, thank you very much.”
“Let’s face it, I’m no spring chicken,” said Ghita. “Chucky can’t expect the Chinese community to feed him forever. So this being the holiday season, I sat Chuck down and said we’re going to make latkes for your grand nephew’s Hanukah party. After the trauma of seeing that Chinese buffet go out of business, he seemed willing to act like a mensch.
“I explained to Chucky that cooking wasn’t magic. I told him that every dish begins with a written recipe and I showed him my recipe for potato latkes.”
Ghita explained that she found the recipe in a newspaper in 1960 and has used it ever since.
“We peeled five pound of potatoes and placed them in two bowls of water to keep them from turning brown,” said Ghita. “When all the potatoes were peeled, we minced them in a meat grinder and added a mixture of matza meal, eggs, salt and pepper.
“Then we heated up a cup of oil in a pan and he dropped the potato mixture into the sizzling oil. After about five minutes, the latkes had turned golden brown and we put them aside on paper towels to absorb the grease.”
“But then catastrophe struck!” Chuck broke in. “We ran out of matza meal but still had six potatoes that needed frying! So I looked through the cupboard and found a box of Bisquick which we used instead of the matza meal. The latkes looked a little strange, but they tasted fine, especially when covered with a dollop of apple sauce.”
By the end of the day, Chuck and his mom had cooked 24 latkes and wrapped them in aluminum foil for the Hanukah party that night. After the gift-giving, the family sat down for the evening’s meal.
“My nephew’s wife had prepared beef brisket and green beans and for desert they brought out my latkes and my grand nephew and niece just gobbled them up. By the time the evening was over, they had devoured 12 of them, and let me tell you: those kids are finicky eaters.”
Chuck said he can’t wait to learn more recipes and is eager to become self sufficient in his eating habits. A veteran fisherman, Chuck is looking forward to learning how to clean a fish and cook it as well.
“It’s about time I learned how to cook,” Chuck said.
“Today potato latkes, tomorrow scrambled eggs!”
Thank you for visiting Chucksville.