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Remembering Marv: Potato Latkes and Smoked Salmon

Posted Aug 26 2012 12:00am
I've talked about my dad a few times on this blog; he's a…character.  Kind of hard to define.  He doesn't quite fit into any one category - and he likes it that way.  He's super-smart, super-geeky, and a super-sweetheart (though he doesn't like for anyone to know that).  You can't get much past him.  I don't know if I've ever gotten anything past him.

If there was ever an intellectual equal to my dad, it was Marv.  Marv was my dad's best friend.  I've known Marv and his wife, Wendy, for my entire life.  Every summer, our families would vacation at the beach together in Ocean City, New Jersey.  I've lived my whole life in Maryland, and for the first half of it I didn't even realize that Maryland had an Ocean City.  It was always OCNJ for me.

Marv was always kind of a mystery to me; whenever he and my dad got together, they would hole themselves up somewhere (usually the kitchen, because one of them was always cooking) and talk computers.  Sometimes I would hang out with them, not understanding a single word of what they were talking about; I just liked the sound of their voices - confident and intelligent always.  Smoked salmon was a thing between the two of them; my dad always gave Marv some smoked salmon during the holidays.

Marv was Jewish, so we used to go to his house and make hundreds and hundreds of latkes for their annual Hanukkah party.  To this day, the smell of oil and potatoes and onions makes me think of those Hanukkah parties - grated potatoes flying out of the KitchenAid mixer into a huge bowl, mixing in the eggs and salt, and Marv, standing confidently at the stovetop, spatula in hand, manning the entire operation.

Like my dad, underneath all of that intellectual hubbub Marv had a soft side.  If I had to sum him up in a single statement, I'd say he was a giant ball of love with a side of smarty pants.  I didn't figure any of this out until the last few years; like so many things in life, we don't fully appreciate them for a very long time.  I think what perplexed me the most about Marv was that he was always so laid back.  Nothing seemed to faze him; he always just went with the tides, just like the ocean shores that we used to visit every summer.

Marv passed away a couple weeks ago.  He had cancer.  For four years he fought it with quiet strength.  Eventually his body could not fight anymore, though I am sure his spirit was still going strong even as he took his final breaths.  The world feels a little lighter without Marv here - wherever he is, I am sure he is smiling.  And cooking.  And laughing.  And loving.

Potato Latkes
(Adapted from Epicurious .  Makes 8 - 10 latkes)

  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small yellow onion, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1/4 cup measuring cup
  • Vegetable oil

1.  Grate the potatoes and soak in cold water for 2 - 3 minutes, changing the water once halfway through.

2.  Spread the onion and potato on a kitchen towel; roll up like a jelly roll and then wring out as much water as possible.  Transfer to a bowl.

3.  Add in egg, salt, and flour.  Combine well.

4.  Heat a skillet or griddle on medium to medium-high, with enough oil to coat the pan thoroughly.  Use a brush to spread the oil if necessary.

5.  Spoon a little less than 1/4 cup of the potato mixture onto the skillet at a time, using the bottom of the measuring cup to flatten the potatoes into a pancake.  Cook 5 - 6 minutes on each side, flipping only once.

6.  Keep the cooked latkes warm in a 250-degree oven on a wire rack with a cookie sheet underneath.  They can be reheated on a wire rack at 350-degrees for about five minutes.

Serve with smoked salmon and capers, sour cream, applesauce, or whatever you feel like - just go with the flow - just as Marv would do.

Marv and Wendy with me at my wedding - one of my many families.

Eat well.
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