I'm Jewish and pretty loud about it. I say "oy" like it's my job, can make chicken noodle soup with my eyes closed, worry about everything all the time always and wear a chai earring I got for my bat mitzvah. I can curse you into oblivion in Yiddish, am on excellent terms with both my rabbis and hopelessly in love with a country that expelled me and my fore-bearers centuries ago: Spain.

Though Jews have deep roots in Spain (see: the old synagogue in Toledo), nowadays we're few and far between in the country. So when I decided to move abroad to a tiny town on the southern coast, I wasn't expecting much in the way of Jewish community.

I was the first Jew many of my colleagues had ever met. And there wasn't a damn thing in the way of Jewish community in my town of Almería. But there was plenty of treyf in the forms of fresh seafood and jamón, so not a total loss.

It only took me a few months of not celebrating Shabbat or going to synagogue for me to start feeling disconnected from my roots–a truly uncomfortable sensation. I've always felt like I'm female first, Jewish second, everything else third, but living in a country where Jews were not only a stunning rarity but once actively removed made me feel off-kilter.

soup, dill, vegetable, broth, cream, herb, carrot, aspic, parsley, meat
Jessica Suss

Things only got worse after the shootings at Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher market in Paris. I called my mom in tears, feeling helpless and hopeless–no rabbi to call, no synagogue where I could say kaddish, no shiva to attend with a platter of lox so large it had its own zip code.

She told me to say the prayers on my own, but it felt empty without a community surrounding me. The point to Judaism (for me, anyway), isn't knowing all the prayers by heart or keeping strict kashrut laws. It's about having a group of people to share those things with.

So what did I do? I made latkes.

Latkes are a beautiful simplistic recipe consisting of carbs and oil, as so many recipes from The Old Country are (see: knish, kreplach,  kugel). While I couldn't buy a challah for Shabbat, I could make latkes anywhere.

cheese, meat, bacon, egg, cheddar
Jessica Suss

Though latke recipes abound, I don't remember using one. Mostly, I just go by feel. I've been making latkes with my mom for as long as I can remember, so a recipe seems superfluous at this point

That night, I ate latkes and roast chicken–my family's traditional first-night-of-Hanukkah meal. I didn't have a menorah to pray over or challah to bless, but I still felt connected to my community in a way I hadn't for months.

Like every other Jew around the world that night, I was celebrating the best way we knew how: with food. And the first crunchy, oily, salty bites of that latke felt just like coming home.