The Great Latke-Hamantaschen Debate


Austan Goolsbee, former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, advocates for the latke at the 61st annual Latke-Hamantashen Debate on November 26, 2007.

Gary Tubb, Professor in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, advocates for the hamantashen at the 62nd annual Latke-Hamantashen Debate on November 25, 2008.

By Hannah Lee

Since 1946, the intellectual nerds at the University of Chicago have had fun giving annual mock-serious presentations on the relative merits of the fried latke versus the baked hamantaschen.  Its popularity has spread to other campuses, including Kenyon College, Middlebury College, Stanford Law School, George Washington University, Amherst College, Swarthmore College, Williams College, Wesleyan University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Brandeis University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, the University of Minnesota, Mount Holyoke, Bowdoin College, UCSD, Haverford College, Johns Hopkins University, University of Denver, Buntport Theater, and one secondary school Milton Academy.  Yeshiva University held its own debate for the first time on November 22nd and Team Hamantasch won.

I learned about these annual debates when my daughter enrolled at the University of Chicago and was even invited to serve as banner-carrier.  This year’s debate was re-labelled  “Sixty-Five and Never Retiring: A debate over Social Security like no other,” but I think the more fun symposia are on the original topic of food preferences.  The “The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate” published in 2005 by the University of Chicago Press and edited by Ruth Fredman Cernea includes “Consolations of the Latke” delivered by Philosophy Professor Ted Cohen at the 1976 Latke-Hamantash Debate.  

So, which do you prefer: the latke or the hamantaschen?