To read so many recipe columns, you’d think Sephardic Jews eat nothing but lavish, exotic party food. Well, there is life between holidays and social visits, and it is no less enjoyable.
Everyday meals, as much as holiday food, define our cuisine and our philosophy about eating. In examining them what comes through is the value we place not only on food that tastes good but on healthful eating, and sharing a pleasant experience at the table. Though not every day is a festival, every meal should be special, no matter how uncomplicated the recipes.
Some everyday ingredients from a Sephardic kitchen – mine!
Balanced composition, good fresh ingredients, and a few simple techniques are all you need to make a delicious Sephardic meal every day – that and a properly set table. Jewish dietary laws aside, we are rigorous about the content, composition and presentation of our meals. Eating is also a time to take pause and enjoy one another’s company. You’d think these concepts are universal, but I have eaten among people who slap slop on the table, let the forks and knives fall where they may, clutch them like shovels, have no use for napkins, and clear the table while people are still eating. (I have dined among savages). Continue reading
Filed under Customs, History
Editor’s note: When I first wrote this post in 2009, it was before I’d sorted out certain details about our food names, and I referred to the biscuits as boyos de rayo, rather than the diminutive boyikos de rayo, which is correct. The comments that followed, which are still posted here, reflected that omission, and it was quite a conversation! This post from November 2012 explains how the Ladino diminutive is used in our food names, so I won’t repeat it here. The recipe link was broken, too! It’s fixed now and re-posted, for those who missed it the first time around. :)
Everybody loves a good cheese biscuit with drinks, and this is ours. Boyos de rayo are crumbly, yeast-free, oil and cheese biscuits. They’re delicious on their own, but in a meze with preserved fish – lakerda or palamida, olives, maybe some potato ajada, and a chilled wine or raki (Turkish anisette), you could snack happily to satiety.
Boyos de rayo aren’t really buns at all [and should properly be called Continue reading
Great Aunt Esther
August 22, 1914 – October 20, 2014
“Born on the Island of Rhodes the youngest of nine children, she immigrated to America in 1929. Educated, talented, and beautiful, she met her husband of 43 years in New York. On the day they met, Harvey was asked by his brother, “What do you think of the Spanish woman?” His reply, “She doesn’t know the time of day, but I’m going to marry her.” They married in 1942 and moved to Los Angeles in 1945, where they set up their home, and then proceeded to travel the world.
She is known by her extended family and friends for her traditional Sephardic cooking and hospitality.”
Esther will be remembered with tremendous love and affection for the joy she brought our family.
When a person shows up on the doorstep of a Sephardic home, they can be sure of one thing: if they cross the threshold, they will be made to eat. In our concept of hospitality is the notion that you feed everyone who comes to your home – even the unexpected visitor – and you get right to it. Dragging your heels to put out a snack is very bad form, as is a visitor’s refusing food when it’s offered. This means chances are you can’t pop over to a Sephardic home for just five minutes, but that’s soon forgiven. In my parents’ home, pretty much everyone who showed up at our door was greeted warmly and welcomed this way, which frankly was really nice. Continue reading