Serve up some citrus this Hanukkah

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

Now that the Festival of Lights is upon us, Jewish children throughout the United States are no doubt anticipating the fun of unwrapping those delicious coins, the chocolate “gelt” covered in embossed gold foil.  No game of Dreidel would be complete without them! While we may consider this treat a tradition in terms of the Hanukkah celebration, other countries may choose to usher in the winter holiday with different culinary treats.

When I was growing up in Chicago, my mom had a friend from Morocco, a beautiful Jewish woman who was a dressmaker. As a child, my concept of Morocco was that of a land of deserts and camels, certainly not a place where I could envision a synagogue!  However, there is a very strong Jewish presence in Morocco today, and much like us, they are preparing to celebrate eight fun and exciting nights of Hanukkah.

In the kitchens of Jewish homes in faraway Morocco, families are busy preparing a unique festival treat quite different from our own. In place of jelly doughnuts, which are a common Hanukkah dessert here in the U.S., Moroccan households enjoy the Sfenj doughnut, made with the juice and zest of an orange. From the very early days of Israel becoming a nation, oranges came to be associated with Hanukkah, since the delicious Jaffa oranges would always burst into season right around this time of the year.

Some countries have only recently developed new culinary customs to be enjoyed on Hanukkah.  In Santa Marta, Columbia, an emerging Jewish community known as Chavurah Shirat Hayyam has started what they hope will evolve into a long-standing tradition: instead of frying latkes in oil, this creative group prepares Patacones, or fried plantains.


If your own family is looking for a way to make Hanukkah a bit healthier this year, reach for some freshly squeezed Jaffa orange juice, or experiment with other ways in which to prepare plantains, a close relative to the banana.  Break with the oil-fried tradition and enjoy a multicultural holiday!