Gingerbread Facebook Walls!! nothing so crafty can taste this good!

Posted On February 1, 2011

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Have you ever wanted to recreate your Facebook wall out of cookies, jellybeans and frosting? Well now you can, thanks to festive crafter WIll Pulos ( youtube: spurnalist). He stops by Sunny Side Up to talk about his crafting technique, and if there will be an edible Hannukah tweet anytime soon.

The interview is from December 2010

 

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Happy Hanukkah!

Posted On December 12, 2009

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Here is an article I wrote for The Concordian detailing everthing you need to know about Hanukkah for the all the gentiles out there.

Hanukkah 101:

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask

By Adam Avrashi

Published: Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It seems, nowadays, that I have become the “Jewish” friend. You know, the token Jew amongst a dozen or so friends of different faiths. Explaining my religion and the reason I do some things and don’t do others, like eat pork, always falls on my shoulders. The Holidays aren’t any different.
So consider me your Jewish friend who will get you through the Jewish holiday without feeling like a total schmo. By the end of this quick guide, you will know which way to light the candles and be able to distinguish between a menorah and a Torah.

Hanukkah: the roaming holiday
The reason Hanukkah falls differently each year is because Jewish holidays follow the lunisolar calendar which involves both the moon phase and the solar year. Hanukkah this year falls on Dec.11 while last year it fell on Dec. 21. However, every year Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev, the ninth month of the Jewish calendar. Today this calendar is pretty much only used to keep track of Jewish holidays and the Torah (meaning Bible) portions we read in synagogue (or temple).  Unfortunately, Hanukkah never falls after Boxing Day; so just like Christians, Jews also have to buy overpriced merchandise they know will go on sale on Dec. 26. Damn you, consumerism.
And yes, there is an exchange of gifts on Hanukkah. Parents typically buy gifts for their children, and give them out over the eight days of the holiday. The gifts are supposed to be given in increments; on the first day you get a very small gift (like a handful of gelt, which are chocolate coins) and then with each day, the gifts get bigger and better. Now, I’m not sure how many people keep this tradition; it’s hard enough buying one gift that someone will appreciate, let alone eight.

Festival of fire hazards: why we light candles
Hanukkah, often referred to as the festival of lights, has a really old biblical story attached to it. Here is the spark notes version so you can impress your friends without having to crack open your Talmud.
Basically, a Greek King of Syria, named Antiochus, wanted all the Jews living in Judea to worship the many Greek gods and abandon their monotheistic beliefs. When the Jews refused, Antiochus had his army destroy the holy temple in Jerusalem, breaking everything in sight. The army then sacrificed pigs in the temple in the name of Zeus (a big no-no) and stole the valued menorah (or candelabra) that always stayed lit inside the temple. Thankfully, a father and his five sons stood up to the army and fought back. They were called the Maccabees (led by the heroic Judah the Maccabee). Ultimately the Jews won, but upon reentering the Temple, cleaning up the mess and placing the menorah back where it belonged, they realized they didn’t have enough holy olive oil to light it. They found a small amount, but there was only enough to last for one day. Yet to their surprise, the flames of the menorah burned for eight days. With each passing day, the flames grew brighter.
It was a miracle, which is why Jews light the Hanukkah menorah (officially called the Hanukiah) every year for eight days. The lighting of the Hanukiah is progressive; the first night you light one candle, the second two candles and so on. However, to light these candles you use a special candle called the shamash (which means “guard” in Hebrew) to light the others. It is usually placed higher, lower or in the centre of the other candles on the Hanukiah.
Candles are placed from right to left, but it’s always the newest candle that is lit first and then you continue lighting the candles from left to right. The candles are lit while reciting a short prayer.
Also, remember this isn’t a birthday party; you don’t blow out the candles. Actually, you are not even supposed to read using that candle light; their sole purpose is to make you reflect on the Hanukkah story.

Fitting in: the customs that make you scratch your head
Songs and hymns are really minimal on Hanukkah, so you really only have to learn two or three key songs (check out “Ma’oz Tzur” it’s pretty catchy). Or worse comes to worst, just hum along; most of the people at Hanukkah parties don’t know what they are singing about anyway.
Now, onto the dreidel, the spinning top that is played with on Hanukkah. It’s four sided, and inscribed with four Hebrew letters; Nun , Gimel, Hey, Shin. Each letter stands for a word, which completes the phrase “A big miracle happened there.” Interesting to note that in Israel, the last letter, Shin, is replaced with a Pey which stands for the word “Poh” meaning here. So in Israel, the phrase would read “A big miracle happened here,” referring to the fact  the miracle involving the oil happened in Israel.
Playing the game is really simple. Each player starts off with a handful of gelt, raisins or nuts, and a handful of it is also placed at the centre of the table. First player spins; if you land on Nun, you get nothing and the next player spins. Gimel means you win the whole pot at the centre. Hey means you get half and Shin means you put one of your pieces into the centre. It’s a fun game, especially when played with real money, in which case it depends on how much you’re willing to lose to your uncle Marvin.

My pants no longer fit: Hanukkah’s fried food
The whole point in attending someone else’s Hanukkah party and having to speak with insipid family members of friends that you really don’t like that much, is for the food. This may sound shallow to some, but these people have probably never tasted a latke and therefore shouldn’t be trusted.
Latkes are best defined as oddly shaped potato hash browns. Some people like to call them potato pancakes, but that phraseology is extremely dangerous as it may lead to the use of maple syrup. Latkes are to be eaten plain, with a dollop of sour cream, or dipped in apple sauce (sounds strange, but it’s actually delicious). Latkes literally take hours to make, so I suggest crashing someone else’s Hanukkah party. This way, you eat all the latkes you want without putting any effort into cooking them. And there is no clean-up involved.
The other Hanukkah delicacies are sufganiyot, otherwise known as jelly doughnuts. Jews eat them because they are fried in oil (clearly a common theme on Hanukkah), and also because it’s winter and it never hurts to pack on a few pounds to keep yourself warm.

Final Tip: Hanukkah is not Christmas
Just to be clear, Hanukkah really has little similarity to Christmas. Yes, both typically fall during December, and yes, both provide a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate, but the similarities end there. Firstly, there is no such thing as a Hanukkah bush. If someone invites you over to decorate their bush, you can be sure it has nothing to do with the Jewish holiday. Also, there is no Hanukkah fairy, and Judah the Maccabee does not delivery presents via chimney.
Finally, never bring Christmas fruit cakes to a Hanukkah party. Not because we dislike Christmas, but because they taste like cardboard mixed with overly sweet fruit jelly and will only end up being re-gifted.
 

Avrashi Potato Latke Recipe (based on recipe from Second Helpings, Please!)

8 potatoes, pealed

1 large onion

3 eggs

1 tsp. salt

pinch of pepper

1/4 c. flour

2 tsp. baking powder

canola oil for pan

Grate potatoes and place them in colander. Squeeze every ounce of water out of those potatoes. If you don’t get the water out, they won’t fry nicely. Keep squeezing until your hands hurt. Place into bowl and mix with all ingredients except oil. Place generous amount of oil into large frying pan, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Take palm size amounts of potato mixture, flatten it and place it in oil. Brown both sided. Makes two dozen.