I can’t think of a single holiday when chocolate confections weren’t served in our home. It was the Sephardic relatives, not the Ashkenazim, to whom it mattered most. It had to be on the dessert table, or some kind of self-imposed shame would befall the hostess. Not in the recipes, mind you. On the side. Boxed chocolates, and the fancier the better.
I’ve only occasionally dwelled on that distinction between the two groups of relatives, probably precisely because we don’t incorporate chocolate into very many of our traditional recipes. But when you stop to think that Spanish & Portuguese Jews and conversos were among the earliest (and most active) traders during the Age of Discovery, a strong historical link between Sephardim and chocolate seems fairly obvious. Continue reading
I’ve landed in Barcelona, blessed with a glorious spring to offset my seriously less than glorious living arrangements (I may not last, and I’m not fussy). The one thing I can’t complain about is the view. We face Montjuic, which reminds me of the hills of Rome only grander, and I explore it every day before I sit down to write. This is what Montjuic looks like now:
More from me when the dust settles…
Filed under Uncategorized
I’m thinking about artichokes today, because it’s Passover and in our family – in many Sephardic and Italian Jewish families – artichokes are a traditional component of the Seder dinner. No religious significance there, it’s just a delicious little luxury that’s available in the springtime.
Edible artichokes have been around a long time, though they nearly went extinct and were scarce during the Middle Ages. But they were brought back through cultivation by the Arabs and reintroduced to the world during the Renaissance, thanks to the Italians and surely more than a few Jewish traders. Catherine de Medici went crazy for them in the late 1400′s, and they’ve been considered a luxury every since. An interesting little tidbit I read says they were brought to her in Florence from Naples, and also “showed up in Venice as a curiosity.” It’s not so curious if you know anything about Jewish communities of the Italian Renaissance. Continue reading
La Voz de Galicia announced last week that on March 25 the Galician town of Ribadavia will celebrate its first Passover Seder in 500 years, in the Sephardic tradition, in a restaurant in the Jewish quarter.
Ribadavia is actually a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time, because my grandfather’s ancestors were from Galicia, though I don’t yet know which specific town or place. It wasn’t until after his funeral that I thought to ask whether that side of the family knew where in Spain they’d come from. ”Galicia,” said my great uncle Ben, just like that. They’d known all along. Uncle Ben was only 92 then, sharp as a tack, and lived to be 101. I should have asked more questions.
I was actually planning to visit Ribadavia in the summer of 2001, but I got invited to the wedding of friends in Ireland – so close! – and went there instead. (The marriage didn’t last, but it was hands down one of the best weddings I’ve ever attended.) Continue reading