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Holy Guaca-Latke!

Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

I have a Ph.D. and can talk about such intellectual topics as literary theory and Marxism. At heart, however, I have tastes that are distinctly middlebrow. I read tons of mysteries. I happily munch on popcorn while gazing at movies made for the masses.

And at this time of year, I watch an awful lot of Hallmark Christmas movies.

Although they are generally Christmas themed, these films have surprisingly little Christian content. A Martian might infer that the holiday was about singing, trees, and a guy in a red suit rather than the birth of a special baby.

The films have a little romance, a little humor, and a lot of pretty people. Over the past few years, Hallmark has been introducing more diverse casts. This year has featured Asian-American, African-American, and Latin protagonists.

Hallmark hasn’t managed to bring in any LGBTQ+ heroes and heroines. Nevertheless, it is slowly creating gay supporting characters. I have a feeling one of them will eventually become the focus of one of the stories.

I love these films because I’m a food writer, and they feature food galore. The protagonists prepare holiday meals, bake more cookies than I have seen in my life, and put together an astonishing number of gingerbread houses.

In the world of Hallmark films, everyone can cook, there is no pandemic, every town lights up a huge Christmas tree annually, and every lonely person finds a soul mate. What’s not to love?

A couple of years ago, the Hallmark Christmas movie lineup was expanded to start including other religions, principally Judaism. My father was Jewish, and I light the menorah he inherited from his parents ever year, so I was happy to see Hanukkah featured in these films.

The one with the most interesting food content (to me, at any rate) is called Love, Lights, Hanukkah!

I believe that it actually first aired last year, but since the Hallmark Channel and its sister channel, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, run holiday content nonstop from late October until the New Year, it can still be found on the lineup.

In this film, heroine Christina is going through a rough time. Her adoptive mother recently died, leaving Christina in charge of a bustling Italian-American restaurant. She has no other family and has just broken up with her boyfriend. Lonely during the holiday season, she decides to take a DNA test to find relatives.

To her shock, she finds several DNA matches living near her. One of them turns out to be the mother who gave her up for adoption. And they are Jewish. Catholic Christina gets a new family and learns about Hanukkah in one fell swoop.

Her birth family is also in the food business; her half-siblings run a sports deli. (I didn’t know there was such a thing, but it makes more sense to me than a sports bar.) For the eight days of Hanukkah, her half-brother is introducing “eight crazy latkes” to his customers.

He doesn’t get to name all of the latkes in the course of the film. There’s a lot of plot to get through, after all. He does mention a few, including (shudder) the “Choco-Latke.” My favorite idea was the “Holy Guaca-Latke,” a potato pancake topped with guacamole. I set out to make my own version of this treat.

My recipe appears below. I found it delicious.

By the way, this Saturday, Dec. 4, at 3 p.m. pianist Jerry Noble and I will offer a holiday concert at the Federated Church on Route 2 in Charlemont, Massachusetts.

The concert will feature mostly Christmas songs, but there will be some Hanukkah content. And because I can’t resist food in any form, I will sing the song “Grandma’s Killer Fruitcake.”

The concert is free, although donations for Mohawk Trail Concerts will be gratefully accepted. If it snows on Saturday, the concert will take place the following day at the same time.

Whether I see you or not, happy Hanukkah! Have a lovely holiday season.

Holy Guaca-Latkes


for the latkes:

2 large baking potatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
chopped fresh chives to taste if available
1 egg, beaten (you may need another one!)
2 to 4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
extra-virgin olive oil as needed for frying

for the guacamole:

3 scallions (green onions), white and some green parts, chopped, or 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 small jalapeño pepper (more if you like spicy foods!), with the stem and seeds removed, finely chopped
5 sprigs fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
the juice of 2 limes
3 small, ripe avocados
1 teaspoon salt

for garnish (optional):

sour cream and/or pico de gallo


To make the latkes, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Wash the potatoes well. Grate them with a box grater or with the grater attachment of a food processor. Wrap the potato shreds in a dish towel.

Carry it to the sink, wring it out, and allow the potato pieces to drain while you get out the rest of the ingredients and maybe have a cocktail or two.

In a medium bowl combine the potato pieces, the onion pieces, the chives (if you’re using them), the egg, 2 tablespoons of flour, and the salt and pepper. In a large frying pan heat a few tablespoons of oil until the oil begins to shimmer.

Scoop some of the potato mixture out with a spoon and flatten it with your hand. Pop the flattened pancake into the hot oil.

The latkes should be a little ragged. If they don’t hold together and are hard to turn, however, add a little more flour to the batter or even another egg.

Fry the latkes a few at a time, turning each when the first side becomes golden. Drain the cooked pancakes on paper towels and pop them into the oven until you have finished cooking the rest and made your guacamole.

To make the guacamole, combine the scallions, the garlic, the pepper pieces, the cilantro, and the lime juice in a medium bowl.

At this point, you may leave the mixture for a few hours. You don’t have to, however. A few minutes before you want to eat the guacamole, get out your avocados. Slice them in half lengthwise, stopping at the pits.

Separate the avocado halves from the pits, and use a spoon or fork to scoop out the flesh of the avocado. (If there is brown flesh, don’t use it; aim for the light green stuff.) Put the flesh in the bowl with the onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice.

Mash the avocados into the mixture with a fork, adding the salt as you mash so that it is stirred in. You don’t have to mash them too much; a few chunks add to the flavor.

Decorate each latke with a generous dab of guacamole; then throw on some sour cream and pico de gallo if you want to. Serves 6 to 8.

To see videos of this recipe, visit these links: Part I and Part II.

For Email Subscribers

Friday, June 18th, 2021

Dear Subscribers:

I’ll be posting a recipe in a few days. If you have been subscribing via Feedburner, your new posts will look different. They will be coming via Mailchimp (you may get this one BOTH ways), and they may not even say “In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens” at the top. They will be from me, however, and they should arrive. As I may have mentioned, Feedburner is about to go away. So … please be patient, and do continue reading. Happy almost summer!


Important Changes to Email Sign Up

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

Dear Readers,

My current email subscription service, Feedburner, tells me it is about to stop sending this blog out via email. I’m in search of a new way to get the word out when I post.

If you currently subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by email or would like to do so, please email me at ourgrandmotherskitchens AT merrylion DOT com. (I’m not putting in the @ or . for fear of spam, but I imagine you can figure them out!) If I don’t hear from you, your subscription will be canceled.

I will notify you when a new email subscription service is up and running. And of course I will NOT share or sell your email address ever.

Please keep reading! I know I don’t post frequently, but I enjoy the feedback. I plan to share a new recipe very soon.



Pudding Time Once More

Friday, October 4th, 2019


My town’s quinquennial Pudding Festival is fast approaching. This Sunday, October 6, Hawleyites and others will gather to celebrate community, music, and of course PUDDING, our town’s official food ever since 1780.

If you’re anywhere near Hawley, Massachusetts, on Sunday, please join us at 330 East Hawley Road (directions are on our website). We invite anyone who likes to cook to enter our pudding contest. (The prizes are amazing!) Even if you don’t like to cook, you may join us for lunch, the pudding parade, a festive entertainment, and the crowning of the new pudding head. The day is an awful lot of fun.

All income from this day aid the local historical society, the Sons & Daughters of Hawley, in the group’s efforts to restore the Hawley Meeting House, a former church, as a community center.

For more information, please go to

Meanwhile, I share with you a pudding recipe from my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. I made it on Wednesday on Mass Appeal. I can’t post the video; my TV was having troubles that day. But you can watch it here.

My other cooking slot was taken by my friend J.D. Fairman of the Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team. He made BLTs with an awesome tomato jam. (By the way, he has also donated a gift basket of his lovely products as a prize for the pudding contest.) Here is the link to his appearance (along with the recipe!).

Strawberry Pudding

This recipe, from my Canadian friend Denis, shows the versatility of the term “pudding.” Like many puddings, it is actually a sort of cake baked so that it creates its own sauce.


4 cups fresh strawberries
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the fruit in a medium-size casserole dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sugar over it. In a bowl mix together the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture becomes crumbly. Beat the milk, egg, and vanilla together. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones, and mix just enough to moisten them throughout. Pour this batter over the fruit. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the top of the cake appears light brown and crispy. Serves 4 to 6.

Leslie Clark, Our Current Pudding Head. Will she retain her crown?

National Rhubarb Day

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

I couldn’t let National Rhubarb Day pass without a recipe from Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb! This is a short recipe, although it takes a long time to be ready since it has to sit for weeks.

fact, it will take an even longer time to be ready NOW because National Rhubarb
Day falls in January, when there is no rhubarb available … unless you want to
import frozen rhubarb, which I have done! (Somehow or other the rhubarb I
freeze at home doesn’t seem to last through the winter.)

My source is Frank Farms in Michigan. The rhubarb costs as much to ship as it does to buy, alas, but it’s good rhubarb.

course, you may certainly wait until rhubarb season to make this simple
cordial. It’s great in goopy desserts like a trifle. Or you may drink it as an
after-dinner liqueur, what my Francophone mother used to call a “digestif.” I
can’t guarantee that it will aid your digestion, but rhubarb is known for its
medicinal properties.

I become famous enough, I will work on moving National Rhubarb Day to a more
appropriate time of year. Meanwhile, I assure you that the rhubarb roots are
still there beneath the snow, waiting to be celebrated….

Rhubarb Cordial


2 cups rhubarb
1 cup sugar
vodka as needed


Place the rhubarb in a 1-quart Mason jar.  Pour the sugar in over it and stir well; then fill the jar with vodka, cover it, and place it in a cool, dark place. Gently shake and/or turn the bottle twice daily until the sugar dissolves.

At the end of 6 weeks, strain out your cordial.  This recipe makes 2 cups, more or less, depending on the juiciness of your rhubarb.