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.
Where I live, there are dozens of artichoke farms, and the variety here (it’s a local cultivar) is neither thorny nor hairy. As artichokes go, that’s pretty luxurious.
No Seder for me (it’s a three hour trip just to get a box of matza, never mind find any other Jews to celebrate with), but I’ll treat myself well all the same. Tonight I’ll be baking Daurada al Forn (baked sea bream), my homage to that Red Sea business, and eating artichokes from this farm, which I walk past most days:
That tiny strip of blue on the distant horizon is the Mediterranean earlier today.
It’s one of the last meals I’ll be eating in Pineda de Mar, and I’ve just realized it completes a cycle, given the pre-opening meal at my little restaurant was a Seder. The restaurant’s gone, and it’s time for me to move on, too. I’ve been packing for weeks (mostly agonizing over what to leave behind), and in two days from now I’m moving to Barcelona, to a sleepy little street at – of all places – the foot of Montjuic. That’s Catalan for Jewish Mountain. It was pure coincidence, I swear.
My own little Passover, and my own little Exodus.
I’ll unpack, try to get settled, and see you on the other side.