Latke and hamentasch, two Jewish delicacies, were the focus of heated debate this past Wednesday at the Jewish Religious Center. The turnout for the second annual Latke-Hamentasch debate was tremendous. Perhaps it was the lure of fierce competition between the Latke team and the Hamentasch team or the Hot Tomatoes pizza, homemade latkes, and fresh hamentaschen that caused people to flock to the JRC on last Wednesday’s rainy night. Whatever the reason, flock they did.
The JRC was filled to overflowing with debate-watchers. The aroma of food permeated every corner. Rows of chairs lined the debate chamber. Huddling together, the two opposing teams reviewed strategy and finalized their attacks. Professor of mathematics Tom Garrity and assistant professor of English Grant Farred defended the hamentasch side. Ebenezer Fitch Professor of Astronomy Karen Kwitter and visiting assistant professor of romance languages Judith Greenberg defended the latke side.
The evening began with eating and conversation and eating and eating and eating. The food was excellent, especially the homemade latkes and hamentaschen. Slowly, people filtered to their seats and the tension preceding the debate began to rise. Moderator “Hanging Steve” Gerrard took the floor to announce the start of the debate. Wearing an exquisitely tailored pizza-with-everything hat upon his head, Gerrard solemnly introduced the debaters and the food item that they were defending. Adding to the solemnity of the proceedings, Gerrard’s small daughter amused the crowd with cries of “Look at Daddy!”
Gerrard,changing his headpiece to a pointy wizard’s hat adorned with silver stars and moons, introduced Kwitter as an avid astrologist. Kwitter asserted that her knowledge was not in the field of astrology, but astonomy. Kwitter naturally focused her arguments upon the universality of the latke. Numerous overheads illustrated Kwitter’s point that the round shape of the latke can be found in many of the universe’s galaxies and star formations. Kwitter also pointed out that there is a region of dark matter in space exerting a strong attractive force upon objects around it. She argued that the only food with the requisite density to exert such a strong attractive force upon other matter was the latke.
Farred’s defense of the hamentaschen might have lacked a certain amount of sincerity and preparation. It is questionable as to whether or not this esteemed professor even understood the difference between a latke and a hamentasch other than that one was made of potatoes and the other was not. He proceeded directly to insult the ancestry of his teammate, Garrity, by asserting that the potato, which constitutes the latke, is an ugly sort of food grown by a backward sort of peoples, namely, the Irish.
Greenberg took the stage next. In an eloquent description of the latke’s superiority over the hamentasch, Greenberg revealed that several famous and much-studied authors originally intended to use the word “latke” in well-known lines from their books. Greenberg shared the shock she experienced upon discovering, while studying original manuscripts of masterpieces by writers such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, that Woolf had originally written the word “lark” in her novel Mrs. Dalloway as “latke.” Greenberg also pointed out that the latke is a work of art in that it consists of potato shreds pulled together to create a cohesive food vision, much like the great writers pull together fragments of life to create a cohesive vision of the world.
Garrity took the stage next in a valiant effort to reestablish the honor of the hamentasch. The most notable points of Garrity’s arguments were that the latke cannot be used extensively as a prop during lectures and that the hamentasch makes a perfect plaything. Garrity demonstrated the inadequacy of the latke as a lecturing tool by picking up a latke and making it “talk.” The latke promptly broke in half. The hamentasch, however, stayed firm and whole in Garrity’s hand. He stated that the important thing about a hamentasch is that it is fun. It can be dressed up because of its triangular shape and used as a doll. Garrity placed a significant emphasis on the inherent equality between all food products, be they latke or hamentasch.
“Hanging Steve” at this point asked the judges for their verdict as to the winner of the Latke-Hamentasch debate. After conferring animatedly with one another for several moments, the three judges took the podium. Each announced their personal reasons for deciding one way or the other. Judge #1 declared the latke side victorious. Judge #2 countered Judge #1’s decision with a vote in favor of the hamentasch side. Judge #3 decided the final outcome by announcing his vote in favor of the latke side.
Reaffirming the inherent equality of all food products expressed by Garrity, the judges handed the winning team of Kwitter and Greenberg, two brave and intelligent Jewish women, two bottles of Kosher wine. The losing team of Farred and Garrity, two equally brave and wise Gentile men, two boxes of Matzo meal. All things being equal, of course.