Anyone can invent a recipe, but what makes a recipe endure? Which are the ones that survive centuries without their ever even having been written down? What are the conditions and experiences that shape a handful of ingredients into something so meaningful?
The focus of this blog is Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) food and the culture that it comes from. Each reveals something of itself through the other; they are intertwined and interdependent, equally influenced as much by philosophy, history, convention and politics as they are by the ingredients available at the local market. Through histories, recipes, memoirs and informed observations, I hope to impart a sense of what it is to be and feel and eat Sephardic, and an opportunity to live and explore our legacy in a meaningful way in the 21st century.
Enjoy the stories, the commentary, the photos. Ask questions, offer your own insight and experience, visit often. And of course, try the recipes.
ABOUT JANET AMATEAU
Janet Amateau is a descendant of the Ottoman Sephardic communities of Rhodes and Adalia, Turkey. A New York native who has lived in Spain for more than a decade, she grew up in a Ladino-speaking household immersed in the generous and hospitable tradition of preparing and sharing delicious meals over lively conversation, two hallmarks of Sephardic culture.
In 2007, following earlier careers in theater and international tourism, Janet opened a pioneering restaurant, Tradescàntia, on the Barcelona coast; featuring classic Ottoman Sephardic cuisine alongside traditional and creative Mediterranean fare, the project was a rare undertaking in Spain and groundbreaking in Catalonia.
In 2012 she returned full time to Sephardic food research, consulting, and writing. Her essays, articles and recipes have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Forward, The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, and cookbooks by Aliza Green and others. She has been the subject of features and interviews for The Washington Post, the BBC, El Alef (the magazine of Casa Sefarad-Israel), TV3 Barcelona, The Jewish Week, and in books including Too Good to Passover, by Jennifer Abadi, and The Forgetting River: A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity and The Inquisition, by Doreen Carvajal of the NY Times. She consulted to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York, has lent her expertise to Jewish food writer Joan Nathan and others for articles in Tablet Magazine, Moment Magazine, The Forward, et al., and was cited by Italian food expert Marcella Hazan in Marcella Hazan’s Musings. For several years in Barcelona she catered Sephardic food tasting events for the European Day of Jewish Culture, an annual open door event across Europe.
She is currently living in Seville, Spain.
50 responses to “ABOUT”
I’m thrilled to have found you…I will put your blog on my blogroll as I have readership worldwide. Please visit and see what we Sephardim are up to.
I too am thrilled to have received a link to this blog.
I’m so looking forward to reading and sharing with you and others.
Best Wishes for the New Year.
Hola Janet, es un placer haber encontrado tu Blog, estoy estudiando cocina en París, y realmente me gustaría aprender y conocer mas sobre la cocina Sefardí y como, no solo ha sobrevivido durante siglos, sino que hoy día es una realidad.
Una cosa muy graciosa es que, en mi casa estamos bien familiarizado con el cuajao, pero en este caso es de pescado, mi Abuela Petra todavía lo cocina.
mil gracias y felicitaciones por tu trabajo
I just found you through sephardim.com. Thank you for a great blog!
i am wondering if you can help with infromation.
I need to find a good Ladino or Sephardic Toast to good friends at a dinner I am organizing.
I was wondering if you have any connections to someone or an organization that could help me with this. The friends I am toasting are very close. I would like to be able to translate the toast to them as well as say it.
Here you go: “Salud, amor, dinero y tiempo para gozarlos,” which means: Health, love, money and time to enjoy them!
It’s classic. If they’re Sephardic they’ll thoroughly appreciate it.
Here’s a reasonable phonetic guide:
sah-LOOD, ah-MOHR, dee-NEH-roh, ee ti-YEM-poh pah-rah goh-ZAR-los.
“Salud, amor, dinero y tiempo para gozarlos,” …
Janet, your toast is interesting because it brings back memories…In our family we toasted by saying, “Salud Y Pesetas”
My family from Rhodes and Canakkale, Turkey. My father was Hasson, my mother was Abrevaya. We collect Sephardic cook books in the world. I love to make boreka and biscochos all time. We are Sephardic and rare, for deaf couple in small world. Sarah’s parents were born in Rhodes, also my father, too. we have been there many times. We never boring to visit Rhodes. We learn about history, we meet people. We live near San Francisco. We have been in Gerona and Barcelona a few times.
BENNY AND SARAH
If you sign, your Sephardic world is not as small as you think – I studied ASL! It’s a long time already but I remember some of what I learned and I still have my dictionaries. What a great language! It’s beautiful and also VERY funny. Thanks for writing! — JA
Hello Benny, this is Suzan… your cousin, Bernice Cordova’s daughter…I would love to have some of the recipes you have collected. I hope you and Sarah are still well and traveling the world.
What a curious coincidence, My father was Abrevaya, his younger sister, Nery, was married to David Hasson, born in Rhodes. My Grandfather Jacobo Abrevaya came form Izmir. Im doing some research about our origins in Gerona, did you find any interesting information.
If you wish to y can connect you to my cousins son and daughet of David HAsson and NEri Abrevaya.
Hello..What a wonderful website/blog. My parents were from Rhodes too..and I especially remember pepitada after Yom Kippur. We used aqua de flor to flavor the water. Keep the info coming..it is a great!
Janet, I love this site. It’s wonderful.
Thank you, Joanna!
HELLO JANET WE ARE INTERSTING THE SEPHARDIC COOK WE HAVE MANY COOK BOOKS FROM THE WORLD WE LIVE IN CALIF OIUR FAMILY ARE FROM RHODES AND TURKEY WE HAVE BEEN VISIT THE TEMPLE IN THE WORLD WE LOVE RHODES VERY MUCH WE VISITED RO SEE BARCLONEA AND GIRONA IN 1992 AND 2002 WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW WE WILL GO TO NEW YORK WHERE I WAS BORN IN N.Y.C
BENNY AND SARAH JASON ABREVAYA SHEMARIA HASSON NAHAIMS
I enjoyed your blog.
My husband is sephardic (Benviniste) and grandparents from Rhodes and we are planning
a Sephardic formal meal in September.I am going to collect hx to share with the group…please add me to your blog…
Connie – Done!
I am going to be visiting Spain at the end of October and would like to know if you’re cooking any traditional Sephardi foods in your restaurant. If so, considering taking a detour to visit and dine with you.
Gail from Toronto, Canada.
So happy to discover your site. As a Turkish person living in Istanbul I am very interested in Sephardic cooking. I believe Istanbul cuisine is very much influenced by Jewish traditions.
You are doing great work to preserve lovely traditions. Congratulations !
Thank you, Isin 🙂
Janet, I will be in Spain on a Tauck Tour next month (October) I will be in Seville,Marbella,Granada,Cordoba, and Madrid. To you know of any Sephardic food restaurants that may be located in these cities? My parents immigrated to Atlanta and were born in Izmir. Thank you for your website. It is terrific.
Dan – If you do a quick search (yahoo, google, etc) you’ll come up with quite a few names. And if any readers want to offer suggestions, they’ll be welcome.
In Madrid, there are 2 sefardi restaurants which also happen to be kosher. The first one is Naomi Grill on the calle Pensamiento, and there is also La Escudilla on the calle Santísima Trinidad (no, I am not kidding!).
I googled Sephardic Cooking and found you. It’s too bad that you are in Barcelona, because I was looking for someone to cook Sephardic food for my son’s Bar Mitzvah in May…
Anyway, some day I will go to your restaurant, perhaps this summer when I am there.
I have been involved with Spain since 1981, and live in NYC and work for the Gov’t of Valencia, Spain… Also used to work for Banco Sabaell many years ago…
HOpe to meet you on day!
Hola Janet, Mi nombre es Raquel Amateau, somos familia. Me encanta tu blog. Me recuerda la comida sephardi que cocinaba mi abuela Raquel y mi padre Musani. Estoy casada con un espanol y vivimos 20 anos en Arroyo de la Miel, Benalmadena,Malaga. Ahora vivimos en Aventura, Florida. Cuando vayamos a Barcelona pensamos visitar tu restaurante. Un fuerte abrazo, Raquel
Hola, Raquel! Eres tu la madre de Moises que bailaba flamenco? Si eres ella, yo tambien me acuerdo la comida de tu abuela – mas que nada los biscochos. Me alegro de verdad que te gusta el blog, te doy gracias y te mando un abrazo muy fuerte.
Are you related to Morris Amateau from NYC? He was a doctor and married to Suzanne Cory. Just curious as I came across your site looking up some foods my grandfather was talking about today.
Hope to hear from you either way!
Yes, I am, Shana! They were (great) Uncle Morris and Aunt Sue to me. Is your grandfather from Rhodes? I’d be curious to know what foods he was talking about. Thank you! — JA
I am thinking of you today Janet- in the Sephardic ballad “tres hermanicas eran” There were three little sisters- the youngest sister, the one who doesn’t marry, gets sent to a castle in Rhodes to expunge the shame of the father.. LOL.. that’s what the song says. No joke.
I know the song well, and remember my elder Rhodesli relatives singing it (with much mirth) when I was very young. I am also the youngest of three, but my father would be the first to tell you (so I hope!) that I have brought him no shame – not even when we visited Rhodes together 🙂
Just wondering if you are related to Maurice and Susan Amateau?
Susan was my grandfather’s aunt. I found this site while looking up old recipes my grandfather has told me about.
Thank you so much for sending me Jewish Catalan recipes from the Middle Ages. I am planning to visit Girona, and when I do I will definitely plan a stop at your restaurant. In the mean time, I will cook your suggestions!
Rhodes in greece? Are there any Seohardi restaurants in New York city as yet? There are several sephardi caterers but none for daily consumption. Congratulatiins you are doing great in keeping traditiin alive. Thank you
Ahsley – There are some NY restaurants identified as Sephardic, but they tend to specialize in Middle Eastern style Jewish cooking, which is not rooted in Iberian traditions. Perhaps with the right persuasion I could be lured back… 😉 Thank you for your kind words!
Hi! love your blog and I subscribe to it. wanted to let you know that I listed it on the resources page of my site (a year long Jewish food project that I started at Rosh Hashana). Thank you 🙂
Thank you, Sarah!
Thank you so much for your blog. Have you written a book on Sephardic food?
I’m working on one, Cynthia. Thanks for asking.
Hi Janet – Great blog! I just found you while researching how the heck to spell fideos/fideyos. Thanks for the lesson. Indeed, “fidellos” did not look right to me. Went with fideyos to differentiate from the other (non-Sephardic) fideos versions out there. My grandmother clearly “Americanized” many of her Sephardic recipes, but I loved them all and have been trying to recreate them. Will look forward to your book!
Thanks, Susan. Glad to be of help! 🙂
Janet I have just finished reading a book that you have probably already read. If in case you have not, I think you might enjoy reading it. “The Ghost of Hannah Mendes” by Naomi Ragen. The acknowledgements at the end of the book speak about a book written by Sir Cecil Roth about Dona Gracia of the House of Nasi.
Thank you, Toby. 🙂
My parents are decendents of the Ottoman Empire. I have a book called cooking the Sephardic way but everyone cooked different depending on the town u came from.
Yes, that’s right, Estelle 🙂
Is there a recipe for BOYIKOS for Passover? If so, can you please email it to me? I know that I have had them before and am not sure if you just replace the flour with Matzo Meal. Thanks so much.
Look up the Boyikos de Rayu recipe on this site and try that, substituting the flour with matza meal. Hag Pesah Sameach!
How wonderful the work you are doing. Most people think of Jewish food as Ashkenazi, ah but the richness of Sephardic food. I have Sephardic ancestry and live in South Texas where indeed many of the original people to the area are of some Jewish descent. We like the people of northern Mexico eat cabrito, rice cooked with spices, sugar and dried fruit. I adore semita bread, turqous a delicious pastry. The food of the region is completely different from Mexico and not Texmex.
That all sounds delicious! Semita of course means “Semite”; semita bread is (originally) a version of Jewish bread, just like rosca or Portuguese sweet bread. And of course “turcos”, though in Mexico they may be filled with pork, are “turkish” pastries, i.e. borekas. Crypto Jews were among the earliest Spanish settlers of Nuevo Leon, and today’s recipes are descended from recipes that were brought over in the 1500’s by those early settlers. Your favorite dishes from South Texas & northern Mexico would indeed sound familiar to Sephardim from other regions of the world. Thank you for sharing some of their local names, and for your kind remarks.
Hi! I loved reading this! My name is Ariel Amateau and I am on a journey of exploring my Sephardic/Rhodesli roots! I’d love to connect.
Hi, Ariel! I will drop you a line so we can connect.