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Boaters and Barber Stripes

There is a certain musical quality of the voice which becomes—I know not how—even more melodious in old age.

--- Cicero

My sister and I are Sweet Adelines. For the three or four people in the world who don’t know what that is, the official website tells us it is: “a world-wide organization of women singers committed to advancing the musical art form of barbershop music.” Both of us have done this for a number of years. Jeanne Anne sang with A Cappella Joy Chorus in Kirkland, Washington, and is now singing with their daytime group, Viva Voce Chorus. Sue sang with Christmas Cities Chorus in Marion, Indiana before moving first to Seattle and recently to Oklahoma City to live near her granddaughter where she hasn’t found her chorus yet.

We’ve basically been singing all our lives. An early memory is riding in the backseat of the car, listening to our parents sing 2-part harmony as we drove back to Gas City after a Sunday visiting our grandmother who was also a singer. It wasn’t long till we chimed in and woodshedded 4-part harmony. I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up. In barbershop, to woodshed means to start with only a melody and work out the harmonies without benefit of notated music. It was great preparation for later becoming Sweet Adelines.

In high school we were the famous singing duo, The Craig Sisters. Well, sort of famous. We performed at a pep rally at Mississinewa High School, singing the plaintive number, “I’ve Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know About Him,” which became our signature song. That used up five minutes of our 15-minute allotment of fame. Ten more to go, so look out!

Not long after I joined A Joy, I discovered something important. Our mother died and I flew back to Indiana for her wake. Nearly the entire Christmas Cities Chorus came and at one point they sang for us, bringing us to tears with the sweetness of it. I realized that I had not only joined a chorus, I’d joined a sisterhood.

Way up on the list of things Sweet Adelines are good at besides singing and laughing is eating. We do love to eat. A Joy is no exception and we have potlucks whenever we can think of an excuse to have one. We used to love Bev Staat’s potato salad before she moved back to Missouri and Pat Pepe’s pea salad is divine. But I’d walk a mile barefoot through broken glass for Mindy Engleberg’s latkes. I inveigled her into sharing the recipe.

Mindy’s Footsore Potato Latkes

2 lbs (5 medium) russet potatoes

1 medium onion pureed (about 1 cup)

2 large eggs

1 tsp salt

½ cup flour or matzo meal

Pure olive oil for frying (not extra virgin)

Peel potatoes and shred in a food processor, or if appliance-challenged, a box grater. The little bit of knuckle that will get skinned off in the process does not alter the taste and adds a wee bit of protein. (Yeah, I know. Eew gross!) Place potato shreds in a bowl and submerge in cold water for 5 minutes. Drain, then place in a clean kitchen towel, roll up and twist forcefully to press the juices out. Use a kitchen towel you don’t like, as potato juice stains. Set potato shreds aside.

If you are multiplying this recipe, keep the ingredients separated until ready to fry. Then mix latke batter in single-recipe increments and fry as described below. Repeat until completed.

Combine potato shreds, eggs, onion puree, salt, and flour and mix thoroughly.

In a large skillet, heat ½ cup olive oil to 350 degrees. By heaping tablespoons, spoon batter into hot oil and press slightly into latke shape. Of course, you know what latke shape is! Do not crowd the pan, as doing so will detrimentally lower the oil temperature. Fry about 5 or 6 latkes at a time, depending on pan size. Cook 5 minutes until brown on bottom, then flip and cook 5 minutes more. Place on paper towels to drain.

If you take them to a Sweet Adelines potluck, quickly move out of the way to avoid being trampled.

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