Tag Archives: Passover

Sephardic women built the Pyramids (and called them mustachudos)

That’s ridiculous. Everyone knows they were built by extraterrestrials…

Whatever your own theory about who built the pyramids (bricks and mortar, bricks and mortar), several hundred years ago my female ancestors chose to commemorate the monumental labor with a monumental Passover cookie: the mustachudo.

 

Mustachudos (hazelnut spice pyramids from Rhodes)

Hazelnut mustachudos (Sephardic spice pyramids)

Any Sephardi whose family came from Rhodes (and a few other places) has some kind of mustachudo recipe. Mustachudos are soft, chewy cookies made from ground nuts. They weren’t always shaped like these neat little pyramids. That’s my doing. Continue reading

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One for the Seder plate: Harosi

Harosi isn’t just for the Seder plate. Make a good one and you’ll find any excuse to eat it.

Malus domestica, from Medizinal-Pflanzed by Franz Eugen Köhler (1897)(This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.)

Malus domestica, from Medizinal-Pflanzed by Franz Eugen Köhler (1897) This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

 

So long as my grandfather was alive, making harosi each year was one of his favorite cooking projects. He made huge batches of it. Vats! At the Seder there were always a few large bowls of it on the table, and on our way home Gramps would gift each family member a jar or two – personalized with our names, and swaddled in acres of paper toweling and rubber bands – so we could keep spreading the love throughout the week of Passover. We spread it on matza. We spread it on cake. On cheese. Over ice cream.  On spoons – it’s great straight from the jar.  Ottoman Sephardim alreay eat spoon sweets, and to us harosi is just one more. Continue reading

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On Artichokes and Exodus

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

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Real live Seder, coming soon to a Spanish town near you!

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

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