I’m just a country goy, but many years ago I inadvertently made some latkes while tweaking the process for hash browns. I was trying for a faster-cooking version of the grated-potato hash browns served in greasy spoons everywhere, and which are almost always made from processed frozen spuds. So I grated some potatoes, mixed in an egg and some flour to hold things together, and called the crispy fried patties potato pancakes. As my cultural and culinary horizons broadened, I learned that I was making latkes.
Our large blended family includes a couple of Jewish stepsons, and they’ve reported that my latkes compare favorably with the hundreds that they’ve consumed, both here in Portland and New York. Since I was shooting for hash browns originally, I’ve always eaten these latkes with ketchup instead of the traditional sour cream and applesauce. The boys tell me that, at least in the celebrations they’ve attended, which are more culturally Jewish than religious, there’s always a few folks out in the kitchen sneaking ketchup on theirs, too.