Elizabeth Dunn

Boulder, Colorado


  One of the things I loved most about Johns Hopkins—"the house that Sid built"—was the close informal relationships between all the students and faculty.  I learned more standing in the Xerox room, having casual conversations while making copies, than I learned almost anywhere else.  Sid, in particular, had a gift for saying just the right thing to spark my thinking—he once made an offhand remark about milk that ended up becoming an entire chapter in my dissertation.
  Sid and I also talked a lot about Eastern European cuisine.  I'd just gotten back from Poland, where I was doing a study of a formerly-communist fruit and vegetable processing factory.  Sid and I would compare my Polish recipes with the foods his father used to make.  (Sid's recipe for chlodnik, a cold summer soup, is divine!).  Sid and I talked about what it must have been like for Jews of that generation, leaving Eastern Europe, and trying to make new lives in New York, and talked about our own families.  While Sid's parents became secular socialists, my grandmother bowed out of Jewishness and politics altogether: She changed her name from Anna Cohen to Jean Caine and told everyone she was Episcopalian.  For years, she tried to convince us that latkes were a traditional Protestant Christmas dish, and that all Christians ate flat crackers at Easter.  (Sid thought this was a rather strange story, to say the least).
 Once Sid got to know the students in the department, he'd pick a commodity that he thought each of us should study.  I was standing in the copy room one day, and Sid came in, stared at me for a moment, and said "herring!"  I had no idea what on earth there might be to write about herring, but Sid went on at great length about how the history of herring could be a history of the Hanseatic League and the Baltic trading zone, and how, given my heritage and interest in Eastern Europe, this would be a perfect project for me.  Frankly, I thought this was a very stupid idea.  Who on earth would want to read a book about fish?  Now that there's a bestseller about cod, of course, I'm eating my words.
 Now, going on ten years later, I find myself thinking a lot about Sid's pearls of wisdom in the copy room, and I realize just how right he was.  While the history of herring remains to be written, I'm working hard on a similar project based on ethnographies of the pork industry.  Sid, do you have a good recipe for tenderloin?


Big bag of potatoes (about 5 lbs).
1 c. flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 onion, grated or diced very finely
1/2 teaspoon salt.

Peel the potatoes, and cut into halves.  As you finish each potato, toss it into a bowl of cold water so that it doesn't turn black. 

Grate the potatoes.  (You can do this by hand, or cut the potatoes into smaller chunks and run through a food processor with a little water).  Rinse the grated potatoes in a strainer to eliminate the starch, and then let them drain.

Put the strained potatoes in a mixing bowl, and cover them with the flour.  Make sure no potatoes are peeking out, or they'll turn black. 

Add the eggs, grated onion, and salt, and mix into the potatoes.  The mixture should be pretty thick to keep the pancakes from being too thin.  If the batter seems runny, add more flour.

Heat about 1/4 cup of oil in a frying pan.  When the oil is bubbling hot, put in a small scoop of potato batter.  The pancake should be about three inches in diameter.  When the latke's edges are golden, flip.  Keep cooked latkes warm in a 200 degree oven, with layers of paper towel in between layers of latkes.  (Don't pile the latkes up, or they'll stick together).

When all the latkes are done, serve with applesauce or—my favorite—sour cream and chives.