70 years of mishegoss

Highlights of last year's Latke-Hamantash Debate.

Carrie Golus, AB’91, AM’93 (@carriegolus)

The Latke-Hamantash Debate has been a University of Chicago tradition since 1946. During last fall's "debate," not a single professor defended the hamantash.



Wendy Freedman, professor, Astronomy and Astrophysics

“After God created the potato, He was so enamored by this perfect form that He sprinkled them throughout the universe. Now you might disagree. But good luck with free expression, even at the University of Chicago. God has spoken.”


David Nirenberg, dean, Social Sciences Division

“I can’t tell you how amazing it is. This is the achievement of a lifetime. When you get the call—I apologize to the Nobelists in the audience—but this is the Nobel Prize of the University of Chicago.”


James Heckman*, the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics

“Sugar is far more addictive than other kinds of foods. Taxing this triangle turns out to have a welfare benefit, in terms of health and addiction.”


Solomon Hegel*, professor, Committee on Social Thought

“You cannot bite into the same latke twice.”


Anne Rogers, associate professor, Computer Science

“Sometimes there’s a right answer. I’m on Team Latke. When you grate potatoes you get bits, and they turn into bytes, so latkes win.”


Marshall Sahlins*, the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology

“The hamantash is a triangle. The latke is a kind of a circle. Any anthropologist would know that we’re dealing with a fundamental kinship convention, where triangles are male and circles are female. This would be a marriage between them. An offspring would be a hybrid, which is, in Jewish tradition, an abomination. This is clearly a misalliance.

Either it’s too distant—it’s a marriage with a Gentile—or it’s too close—it’s incest. It’s unlikely to be incest; the partners are too different. One is baked and the other is fried. One is sweet and the other is salty. So the chances are, one of these is a Gentile. How do we know which one?

Haman is obviously an enemy. So she is obviously Jewish, and he is apparently not Jewish. Obviously I’m on latke’s side. Hamantashen is not Jewish.”


Hal Weitzman. (Photography by Joel Wintermantle)


Hal Weitzman, executive director for intellectual capital, Chicago Booth

“A colleague emailed me a couple of weeks ago to ask whether I would be arguing tonight in favor of latkes or ham.”


Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer, the Helen A. Regenstein Distinguished Service Professor of Classics

“So let us conclude: the latke stands for poetry, civilization, and statesmanship, while the consumption of hamantashen—especially poppy seed hamantashen—causes constipation, maculation of the face, jaundice, tooth decay, gout and arthritis, internal rot of the body, ulcers and boils, semen buildup behind the eyes, and ultimately death. In short, the truth finally lies open to us: the harmful, flesh-eating hamantash caused the fall of Rome. Thank you.”


*Sahlins, Heckman, and Hegel shared their insights via the video Between Two Lecterns, hosted by Nirenberg. Hegel bore an astonishing resemblance to the dean. You might even think they were the same person.


The beloved latke and the unloved hamantash. (Photo courtesy University of Chicago News Office)