British Columbia

Not just delicious: Why jelly doughnuts are the perfect Hanukkah treat

Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday of light and fried foods, begins today — and if ever there's a year to fully embrace the small, calorie-laden comforts of hot, crispy latkes and gooey jelly-filled doughnuts, it's this one.

Sure, fried dough can't fix this year. But it might make you forget about it — for a moment

Sufganiyot are jelly donuts eaten in Israel and around the world during Hanukkah. See close up of donuts in Sabra Kosher Bakery Vancouver bakery on 01 Dec 2020. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

When do you forget about the pandemic, even just for a second?

Maybe it's when you take that first bite of warm, soft, buttered sourdough that you've mastered by now. Or when you walk into your living room and notice the glittering lights and crisp spruce scent of the Christmas tree you set up last month. The cool air on your skin when you take your mask off at the end of the day.

The small comforts have, at times, been our biggest escape during a year in which COVID-19 shuttered borders, cancelled gatherings, and pushed us all at least two metres apart.

Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday of light and fried foods, begins today — and if ever there's a year to fully embrace the small, calorie-laden comforts of hot, crispy latkes and gooey jelly-filled doughnuts, it's this one.

The symbolism of fried foods on Hanukkah dates back to the victory of the Maccabees, a group of Jewish warriors, over the Syrian Greek army. It celebrates a miracle in the Jerusalem temple where a day's supply of oil in the menorah remained lit for eight days.

"And so we commemorate eight days of Hanukkah," said Carey Brown, a rabbi at Temple Sholom Synagogue in Vancouver.

"Eight nights of lighting our menorah, as well as eight days of eating lots of oily, delicious foods."

Baker Shimon Kahlol prepares a batch of sufganiyot at Sabra Bakery on Oak Street in Vancouver. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Although the holiday will look different this year, jelly doughnuts, or sufganiyot, are a pandemic-friendly tradition: delicious both hot and fresh from the fryer or at room temperature, they're a good choice for a physically distanced porch drop-off.

Shimon Kahlol owns Sabra Kosher Bakery and he's been making sufganiyot for Hanukkah every year since the 1990s. He expects to be busy this year, even without the usual large gatherings that mark the holiday.

"Especially in Hanukkah ... I'm stuck here till eight or nine o'clock in the evening," he said. 

Kahlol fills his doughnuts with everything from chocolate, strawberry, mango, lemon and custard flavours.

His favourite?

"The simple one, that's with jam," he said. 

Sure, fried dough can't fix this year. But it might make you forget about it — for a moment. 

Watch how sufganiot are made.

Not just delicious: Why jelly doughnuts are the perfect Hanukkah treat

CBC News BC

5 months ago
3:14
Sufganiyot, or jelly-filled doughnuts, are a popular dessert for Hanukkah. But did you know there’s a symbolic reason why these delicious pastries are eaten during the Jewish holiday? 3:14

Sharing the light

And there are other aspects of the holiday that COVID-19 can't touch. 

Menorahs are placed near windows, so the glow of their light can be seen by people passing by, Brown said. 

Rabbi Carey Brown says there's comfort in the light and foods associated with Hanukkah, even if people can't celebrate together this year. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

"This year, especially, I think there's a lot of beauty and I think maybe a lot of comfort in that idea of even though we're kind of restricted to our own homes and the people that are living in our homes, that we're still putting out our light into the world and that as as we light our candles each night during Hanukkah, that we're kind of connecting to everyone who's out there," she said. 

Brown says everyone can take comfort in the holiday's treats, the glow of light, and the hope that next year, things will look up. 

"Whether it's online candle lighting together or care packages of latkes and doughnuts ... all those little touches, I think, make a big difference," Brown said.

Kahlol fills his doughnuts with everything from chocolate to mango and custard flavours. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

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