History professor Julian Zelizer said the political atmosphere between Latke Lovers and Hamentaschen Hubrists has become “more toxic, more poisonous and more rancorous” at the packed annual Latke-Hamentaschen Debate on Sunday afternoon.
The debate involved the merits of two traditional Jewish foods: the latke and the hamentaschen. A latke is a shredded potato pancake, and a hamentaschen is a triangular pastry with fruit-flavored filling. The Latke team consisted of Zelizer and Adam Mastroianni ’14, while the Hamentaschen team consisted of politics professor Robert George and Alex Moss ’14.
Zelizer argued that though both groups face criticism for their mounting radicalism, the Hamentaschen Hubrists have moved much further toward the extreme of the food spectrum. He likened the Hamentaschen team to the Republican Party, led by Speaker of the House John Boehner.
“In recent years, Hamentaschen Hubrists in Congress have blocked progress on key measures like immigration reform. They’ve shut down the federal government, and they’ve threatened to send the nation into default and they have called for deep cuts in the social safety net,” Zelizer said.
The Latke party, on the other hand, represents hope and optimism and believes in community, Zelizer said.
“With every delicious bite, we remember the values of pluralism, equality and integration that are very much part of the American tradition,” he explained. “The cook must shred the potatoes into a million different pieces, but then, in the magic of the pan and the oil, the different strands of the potato come together, woven into the beautiful quilt of the latke.”
But George argued that the Hamentaschen party better represented unity.
“Just as the many are made one by our common foundation in the American creed, the splendid diversity of fruit fillings are made one in the concept and reality of the Hamentaschen,” he said.
George also claimed Biblical authority for his position. He interpreted manna, the divine food given to the Jews in the wilderness, as a form of hamentaschen.
“Surely, it wasn’t tasteless, plain, white bread. Would a loving and merciful God feed His chosen people on Wonder Bread? Heavens no!” he said. “He certainly would not feed them Wonder Bread, nor would he feed them on oily potatoes.”
Moss appealed to the audience’s emotions, saying the Hamentaschen party understood its constant emptiness.
“You eat tray after tray of lukewarm latkes, hundreds of them and they’re spilling out of your mouth, and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘This time, this time, latkes will fill the void.’ But latkes don’t know about filling. Oh sure, they might understand it intellectually … but they don’t understand it on a soul level, because they’ve never been there,” Moss said.
Moss noted that a hamentaschen man would become either great or terrible by choosing to take risks rather than relying on the boring latke.
An audience member asked both teams to relate their treats to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid.
“The hamentaschen is a triangle,” Moss said.
Mastroianni countered, “Says the man who hasn’t looked at the USDA [guidelines] since 1996. It’s a plate now. A plate is circular. A latke is loosely circular.”
The latke came out triumphant in the audience vote.
The debate, co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Life and the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, took place in the Whig Hall Senate Chamber at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday and was moderated by University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83.