Jerry Coyne informs us that the latke-versus-hamantash debate originated at the University of Chicago. He also reminds me that tonight is the last night of Chanukah, so I had better post this piece now. I wrote it years ago for the debate, Are Latkes Better Than Hamantashen? at my local synagogue. For those not in the know, latkes are a Chanukah delicacy: potato pancakes cooked in oil to represent the oil lamp that miraculously burned for eight days after the Maccabees rededicated the Temple. Hamantashen are triangular cookies eaten on the holiday of Purim (which is based on the Book of Esther). Penimah is a play on the Hebrew name Peninah.
First, hamantashen are not kosher. (1) They have 3 sides, which symbolizes the Trinity. (2) As if to drive the point home, they are filled with poppy seeds; these were originally popey seeds, from the Latin word papaver, which means true pope. (3) Finally, the word is really a corruption of Haman-toosh, and everyone knows that the hindquarters of an animal are not kosher.
Furthermore, the word for hamantashen in Hebrew is oznay haman, which means Haman’s ears. This means they give your children selective hearing and inspire them to poke holes in their earlobes (and maybe elsewhere).
Latkes are called latkes in Yiddish because they were developed by Lot, unlike Haman a righteous man and a nephew of my ancestor Abraham. The Hebrew word is levivah, which comes from the word lev for heart. The first words of the Israeli national anthem are Kol ohd ba-levav penimah, which means Everyone wants another of Penima’s latkes. This shows that all that oil is really good for your heart and further that, when modern science disagrees with the Torah, the Torah is right.
In short, if G-dash-d had wanted us to eat hamantashen, not latkes, he or she would have had us fill them with carrots so that at least they would be good for our eyes.