This has never been a “recipe” blog, and I know that frustrates some of the people who come across it, but my aim here is to keep Sephardic cuisine alive by giving it meaningful context. So much context is conveyed through the names of our foods, which come of course from the Sephardic language, Ladino. Today I’m apologizing for my slow output (I’ve gotta make a living, too), but there are some fun and interesting posts on the horizon, and maybe some snark. Frankly, sometimes I unearth historical information that makes my hair stand on end. I hope to publish some of that here before too long.
In the meantime, I’ve just finished reading an article in The Forward about the linguistic cultural work of Rachel Amado Bortnick, a Sephardic woman born in Izmir who lives in the States. This dedicated woman is achieving for the Ladino language what I set out to do for Sephardic food: to keep it alive by giving it meaningful context. Through her online language group, Ladinokomunita, she has given the existing Ladino-speaking community a forum to keep using the language in the context of Sephardic life and recollection, and provided resources for others who’d like to learn it. Take a look.
Though she was born in New York, my mother’s first language was Ladino. I heard it spoken pretty much every day of my life until I was nineteen; when my grandmother died, everyone switched to English. Grandma had been the linguistic glue.
I never learned to speak Ladino, though I surely know and love its utterly charming accent, inflection, and key phrases that are as much my history to me as is our food. Language exhibits the character of the culture it springs from, and my memories of daily life and special occasions are all filled with aural pleasures, too, with much laughter and the delightful – and often saucy – lilt of Ladino. It’s like no other language, and I’ve heard many. I have been at times impressed, amazed or saddened, to realize that in my family, mine is the first generation in 510 years not to speak our beautiful tongue.
My mother, who is now eighty-six, has never learned to use a computer. Maybe Ladinokomunita will be just the right incentive for her to learn the ways of communication of this era, and for me to learn the ways of communication of hers.