A dispute as heated as a fresh latke, content as rich as the fruit filling of a hamantash, and conflict as old as Judaism itself. Eager crowds filled the standing-room-only Lancaster Lounge on Wednesday night to listen in on a debate asking the question: Which Jewish delicacy reigns supreme?

Calling upon metaphysics, environmental ethics, literary analysis, and puns galore for support, Professor of English Marilyn Reizbaum and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies Larry Simon squared off, pitting the triangular hamantash pastry against the circular potato latke.

"Each side presented compelling arguments...I'm not sure I could say there was a decisive winner. I know I can't choose," said Shelley Barron '09.

Organized by Bowdoin Hillel, the latke-hamantash debate is the first of its kind held in Maine. The debate's history reaches back to the University of Chicago in 1946, at a time when, as debate moderator Professor of German Steven Cerf explained, the "open display" or discussion of Jewish culture was discouraged.

However, according to Cerf, neither the hamantash nor the latke side has ever won in the cross-country debates.

Simon, arguing on behalf of the latke, spoke of environmentalists who claim latkes are a "leading source of green house gasses," deeming these "scurrilous attacks."

"The only warming properly associated with latkes is that which one feels while eating it. The warmth of satisfaction in a meal well done," he said.

While one Harvard University debate argued that the oil-fried latke increases our dependence on foreign oil, Simon retorted that "only the most deranged of cooks fry their latkes in gasoline."

"In fact, the oil used, as we all know, is vegetable oil...And therefore latkes lead the way in pointing the direction out of our energy crisis and towards the use of biofuels!" Simon said.

He went on to show the latke's importance in a "bit of a revisionist" history of Western metaphysics, suggesting that Pythagoras and Plato both had latkes on the mind, if not in hand, while theorizing. He suggested that when Descartes said, "I think therefore I am," he meant, "I think I'm eating a latke, therefore life is worth living and so I am."

He quoted Bishop Berkeley's subjective idealism, "To be is to be perceived...eating a latke," referred to Kant's "transcendental latke," and referenced Hegel's pursuit of the dialect of "the absolute knowledge of the true value of a latke." He also told how Derrida once tried to deconstruct a latke, only to find that by separating the ingredients, "you only end up with mush."

Reizbaum, a veteran debater, rose to counter Simon by proving the supremacy of the hamantash in literature. She cited its triangular form, calling the hamantash "the paragon of asymmetry, a very tenant of the modernist idea."

In particular, Reizbaum noted an obsession with the triangle in modern literature, particularly in James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Joyce's "Ulysses" is filled with imagery of eating, in particular seed cakes, and a Freudian erotic triangle created by a wife's adultery.

She references Harold Shapiro, former president of Princeton University and past debate participant, who made the case for "the hamantash's superiority by indicating the epicurean significance of the 'edible' triangle, the Oedipal triangle."

Reizbaum emphasized the importance of "such triangles of desire, or what we may call a 'mange' a trois."

Moreover, she argued that the triangle is "the very heart of Jewishness," as the Star of David is forged from two.

"The upshot of my argument here, as I've insisted elsewhere and often, is that Jewishness is quintessentially modern," she said.

Both Reizbaum and Simon were quick on their feet to respond to questions about which induces greater Jewish guilt in consumption, which really is ideal shape, and which delicacy lasts longer.

"With the latke we never have to worry about that, with the latke there's never any left!" said Simon.

Students agreed on the debate's success, but couldn't pick sides. While Meredith Borner '09 thought she favored latkes, she was persuaded by Reizbaum's argument.

"Naturally, after the debate, I had both a latke and a hamantash. So I really do love both," she said.

In the end, Simon and Reizbaum expressed peaceful sentiments.

"I believe in coexistence and that things have their place, so I don't want to claim victory over the hamantash. We can live together in a properly constituted meal," Simon said.

Reizbaum, on the other hand, said, "As far as food is concerned, truth be told, I don't like either one of them."