Actress Mayim Bialik modernizes and veganizes latkes for Hanukkah 2018

Mayim Bialik photo by Dove Shore (2)
Photo by Dove Shore

By Rachel Gurevich

Tired of plopping plain ol’ applesauce or sour cream on top of your latkes? Everyone’s favorite vegan-neuroscientist-actress Mayim Bialik has invented a few new potato-pancake toppings perfect for 2018! If you’d like to offer avocado toast latkes, animal style latkes, or buffalo style latkes on your Hanukkah dinner menu, you’ll want to check out Bialik’s greasy, entertaining YouTube video.

For those of you who may be new to latkes, they are a popular Hanukkah dish made of grated potato, onion, usually a couple eggs (vegan egg replacer works!), a little flour to bind everything together (gluten-free flour works!), and basic salt and pepper seasoning. You combine, heat up some oil in a deep frying pan, and then drop rounded spoonfuls of happy-yiddisha-nostalgia into the oil. Fry until browned, flip, fry some more, then remove from the oil, and enjoy.

While traditionally they’re topped with applesauce or sour cream, with Bialik’s modernized millennial topping twists, you can go fancier this year.

While latkes may be new to you, you’re likely at least someone familiar with Mayim Bialik. You may recognize her as character Amy Farrah Fowler from the hit CBS show Big Bang Theory. Or, if you’re just slightly older than a millennial, you might also know her as Blossom from the 1990s NBC sitcom by the same name. Besides her television work, Bialik also has an active YouTube channel where you can learn about her life as a “perfectly imperfect” mom, dedicated observant Jew, and passionate activist.

We chatted with Bialik about her personal holiday traditions, what she thinks about gift giving, how she co-parents on the holidays, and her Hanukkah noshing preferences in our Q&A below.

Mayim Bialik photo by Dove Shore (1)
Photo credit: Dove Shore

Thanksgiving & Co.: What is your favorite thing about the holiday season?

Mayim Bialik: Besides togetherness and yummy food, the weather! Here in LA, we don’t get snow or anything truly “winter-like,” but we do get temperatures in the 40s and 50s at night, which warms my cold wintry heart! I love it.

TG: What are your must-have holiday recipes every year? (Besides latkes of course!) Do you make sufganiyot?

MB: I make vegan sufganiyot, and it’s labor intensive but so worth it! I also tend to make my classic chocolate chocolate chip cookies because everyone makes fancy cookies and sometimes you just want a plain chocolate chip one!

TG: I’m almost afraid to ask but… what are your thoughts on baked versus fried latkes? As you say in your YouTube video, it’s a once a year thing, but… are you ever pro baked latkes? Or do you consider that blasphemy?

MB: Sacrilegious to the max! If you can’t fry it, don’t eat it. That’s what the salad I usually serve with latkes is for — people who can’t handle the fry!

TG: We loved your modern take on latke toppings. I believe you that your vilda chaya/animal style latke was tasty! What’s the going favorite latke toppings at your house?

MB: Sour cream and ketchup for me and my older son (think hash browns), and my younger son just does ketchup because he thinks ketchup makes everything epic. My mom ate hers first night with diced pimentos, red onion, and a pineapple slice, and I almost disowned her.

TG: Let’s talk about menorah lighting! Do you prefer oil cups or wax candles? Put your menorah by the window or by the door? (Or somewhere else?) Light one menorah for the family or does everyone light their own?

MB: Candles. Oil is just too much work! Everyone gets their own. The more light, the merrier! Then you can have contests for whose stays lit the longest. And I don’t have a window facing out, so we publicize the miracle by me posting on social media every night — ha!

TG: How does your family do Chanukah gifts? Do you do a present-a-night, one for the entire holiday, or something else?

MB: We de-emphasize presents, honestly. We find some small fun things and give one here and there, but first night, no one got gifts except my mom, and it was totally fine. It is not a traditional gift holiday, and our boys have so much stuff already, so it’s all fried food and singing and dreidel!

TG: What’s the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received?

MB: The gift of life? Thanks, Ma!

Seriously, my Tiffany Jewish star is the only fancy jewelry I own, and my parents got it for me when I was 16. It’s still my favorite necklace, and I get compliments on it every time someone sees it. It’s not gaudy at all, but it’s a bold statement, and I love its significance as the way my Jewishness is worn about my neck!

TG: We know you are dedicated to co-parenting with your ex-husband. How do you handle Chanukah?

MB: More nights makes for more decisions, which is hard. As a working mom, I am out many nights, so that’s hard, too. My mom hosted us all first night, and my ex is hosting last night. All the other nights, we meet up for lighting, or FaceTime if I am stuck at work.

TG: What are you most grateful for this holiday season?

MB: My health. I have struggled a lot over the past several years, and I see a turning point. It’s been hard work to get here, but I am so grateful.

TG: If you could go back 10 years and send yourself one Twitter-length message, what would it say?

MB: Shut up.

TG: What is your wish for the world in 2019?

MB: More understanding of subtlety. Our black-and-white thinking about religion, politics, feminism, gender, language is not working for any of us. More subtlety please!