Did the recession strike at jelly doughnuts, a traditional treat during the Chanukah season? At the very least, weight conscious Israelis have! This year, fewer fatty doughnuts will be eaten, and the smaller and less fried variety will be favored, according to a survey of the Manufacturers Association of Israel.

Bakeries report a 4 percent drop in Chanukah doughnut sales, in comparison with last year’s revenues. Nevertheless, Jewish residents of Israel will still consume about 17.5 million doughnuts with a financial outpour of about NIS 54 million, according to the survey.

On average, an Israeli will eat three to four doughnuts – popularly known as sufganiyot – during the Chanukah season. Although the eight-day holiday starts Sunday night, the sales of the Chanukah treat began two months ago. A new invention this year is the frozen doughnut variety, which can be quickly heated in a household oven. The price for half a dozen frozen doughnuts runs between NIS 17 and 18 (about $4.29 to $4.56).

The custom of eating foods fried in oil is a culinary way of commemorating the Chanukah miracle after the Maccabees won the battle against the Greeks ruling Israel. Eager to rededicate the Temple in Jerusalem, the Maccabees found a small flask of olive oil, enough to light the Temple menorah for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, allowing the menorah to burn continuously until additional olive oil supplies could be obtained.

While the favored fried Chanukah treat of Israelis is the doughnut – filled with red jelly, caramel, or chocolate – most North American Jews prefer latkes, a grated potato-and-onion pancake fried in oil and served with sour cream or apple sauce. It is unknown how many “fat-free” dieters cheat during the eight days of Chanukah and indulge in the traditional holiday food.

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