You Say Potato, I Say Leek (but we’re still all in this together, people)

by Carilyn on January 21, 2015

Leek Fritters

My Bluebird troop was a mixed bag.  And I mean that in the best way possible.  We had big girls and little girls, girls with parents who were divorced, girls who lived with their grandparents.  We had rich girls and poor girls.  We even had a girl who would later decide she didn’t even want to be a girl.

One of the best parts of all this diversity (besides the fact that it meant that we weren’t forced to only do crafts like some of the lamer Brownie troops – yes, we did have a chip on our shoulder that we were not Brownies, but rather, the lesser-status Bluebirds) was that we had girls who were Jewish, girls who were Christian, and some who were both.  And you know what that means: we got to celebrate every holiday times two – Hanukkah AND Christmas, Easter AND Yom Kippur, and pretty much every other holiday where it’s “pair” could be found (and those our leaders made up).  We were a holiday-celebrating group of red, white and blue eight year olds.

And we could eat.  While there was always some sort of snack provided at the end of every “meeting”, which was, frankly, the highlight of the whole experience (Was it just the ‘70s, or do adults still have to bribe kids with snacks to get them to make dream catchers out of yarn and kaleidoscopes out of toilet paper tubes?), the best snacks were always those that were part of some “cultural” lesson, usually one centered around a holiday.

There was gingerbread at Christmas, which served the dual purpose of being edible and a craft (turned into a lopsided doghouse), peanut butter and jelly on matzo during Passover, sugar cookies at Valentine’s (where we learned some “Italian” culture by hearing the story of St. Valentine) and my favorite, potato latkes at Hanukkah.  Really, fried potato pancakes beat Chips Ahoy and grape Kool-Aid any day of the year.

Usually our Bluebird troop meetings were held at one of the homes our Troop Leaders, Mrs. Munsinger and Mrs. Perry.  But, for the Potato Latke celebration, I’m sorry, I mean the Hanukkah celebration, we had our meeting at Lisa’s house.  Lisa was one of my best friends, primarily because she lived a block away from me (proximity being one of the main determining factors of friendship when you can’t drive), and her unrivaled coolness – she rocked Bear Traps platform sandals and pierced ears ages before the rest of us. We did everything together, including share holidays and histories. In the years to come, I would end up attending Hebrew School with Lisa more often than I attended my own Confirmation classes, such was the bond that was formed at age five by us both living on streets named after spacey things (mine: Satellite; hers: Borealis).

So, because Lisa was Jewish, Lisa’s mother was our “guest” leader for the Hanukkah celebration. Up until that moment, I had never thought of Mrs. Roth as being much of a domestic type.  In the three years Lisa and I had been friends, I had never seen her cook a single thing.  Their kitchen table was only used, as far as I knew, for Lisa and I to make lists of all the movie stars we were going to marry when we were rich and famous.  Food in Lisa’s house came from the kitchen pantry (King Vitamin cereal, Ding Dongs, peanut butter) or the freezer (tacos made by the maid and pizza).  I went to our Hanukkah meeting with very low expectations on the snack front.

But when I got to Lisa’s house, something was very different.  It smelled like food.  Like food that was being cooked.  Like good food that was being cooked.  Things were looking up.

Before we got to the snack though, we had to go through the requisite “learning” part of the whole Bluebird experience.  Sigh.  What were we going to do that day?  Create miniature menorahs out of pipe cleaners?  Reenact the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire while dressed in bed sheets?  I knew we weren’t getting to that good smell without paying the piper.

But Mrs. Roth turned out to be the best kind of hostess/Bluebird leader.  Instead of some sort of craft project or boring lecture, she taught us the dreidel song, and while we played, she told us the history behind Hanukkah, and then fed us all the latkes and applesauce we wanted.  Take note troop leaders, that is how it is done.

To this day, I remember the dreidel song, the meaning of Hannukah, and still love latkes.  Now I make them for my kids and bore them with stories of my childhood and the importance of each of our histories – their own and the histories of all who have gone before.  They pretend to listen only because they want me to keep making the latkes.  Whatever it takes.  Like Mrs. Roth, I know how to get my lesson across most effectively.


**You can find a million recipes for great latkes.  This recipe is a little different because it uses leeks instead of potatoes.  The result is a more “mature” pancake, but one that my whole family loves.  I usually double the batch and freeze half because they are so good toasted when you want something savory for breakfast but don’t have a lot of time.


Leek Pancakes (adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook – one of the absolute best!)

3 large leeks, washed and chopped (use only the white and pale green parts)

3 scallions, washed and chopped (use only the white and pale green parts)

1 tsp. salt

¼ cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. black pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Vegetable oil for pan frying


Boil the chopped leaks until tender, about 4 minutes.  Drain well, then pat completely dry with paper towels.  While leeks dry, whisk together salt, flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper and black pepper.  Add the scallions and leeks.  Add the beaten egg.  Fold together until blended.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Pour 4 Tbsp. of oil into a frying pan over medium heat.  When oil starts to shimmer, gently drop large spoonfuls of dough into hot oil.  Do not crowd the fritters – only fry a few at a time.  Fry until brown, about 3 minutes and then turn over and fry the other side.  When pancakes are golden brown on each side, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

After all pancakes are cooked, transfer to a baking sheet and let warm in the oven until time to serve.

Enjoy with sour cream mixed with a dash or Worcestershire or lemon/garlic.






Kim January 21, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Well, I never did Brownies or anything like it but your troop sounds pretty awesome. Love that a simple meeting made such an impact – who knew that Latkes could have that much influence?!
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M @readeatwriterun January 21, 2015 at 6:34 pm

OMG King Vitamin cereal. I hadn’t thought about that in decades but immediately got a picture of the box in my mind when I read the words. Wow, flashback. (and Ding Dongs!)

They still sell it!

Unfortunately, I don’t like leeks (to me they’re just another onion…shudder). My mom would have LOVED this recipe though!
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Kate January 21, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Neat story AND a new recipe to try! Score!
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Marcia January 21, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Yum. I love leeks. I make sweet potato latkes that are pretty good. I need more leeks in my life though.

SteveQ January 22, 2015 at 9:08 am

Now I really want to see little girls dressed in bedsheets reenact the Maccabean revolt! [Latkes without potato is like tofurkey]
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Char January 23, 2015 at 7:00 pm

I’m not commenting on your post. I’m just going to gush about your new fur baby. Just too cute for words. I hope his toilet training is going better than ours.
Char recently posted…A Little Whine And A Lot Of CrapMy Profile

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