Category Archives: History

Fideos. It’s a pasta, not a ballet. No matter what they tell you.

Homeroom’s over. Sit up straight and pay attention.

If you take a look at transliterated Arabic some time (I’m dreaming, aren’t I), you’ll find the roots of a lot that’s Spanish. Arabic-speaking people ran the peninsula for hundreds of years; they left more of a linguistic legacy than just the word for meatballs. They also introduced many foods, including one in particular – fideos – that anyone whose cooking has deep roots in Spain thinks of as their own. Which after so many centuries making the stuff, it is, across Latin America and in Sephardic homes wherever in the world you may find them.

Today, fideos is Spanish for noodles in general, but originally it referred to a category of dry pastas made from durum wheat. This post is about words, not wheat. Continue reading

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The Biscochos Are Here!

O, Ye of little faith! You thought I’d never come across, didn’t you. Granted, I’ve really dragged my heels with this recipe, and after taking so long with it, of course I feel like my reputation’s on the line.

I can’t count the number of people who’ve asked me – begged! – for a good recipe for biscochos, and for longer than I’m comfortable admitting. (Okay. Years.)   There are two very good reasons for so much pleading, and for so much stalling on my part.

First (or second):  Biscochos – Sephardic cookie rings – are a treat often first experienced in early childhood, and never, ever forgotten. You might even have teethed on them, though I also recall gnawing on Zwieback biscuits. (“She remembers teething?” you ask. Yep. Tastes and textures die hard).

Second (or first): What constitutes a “good” biscocho is entirely subjective, and a good biscocho recipe is very elusive. It can take ages to get it right. I’m still working on mine. Continue reading

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Spain’s Most Visible Jewish Heritage Is Edible.

August 3rd passes largely unnoticed in Barcelona, though down in Huelva Province it’s the last day of a week long festival. It was from there that Columbus set out on August 3, 1492, on his first voyage in search of the Indies. That was a good day or a bad one, depending on your perspective.

In the history of Barcelona, August 5th – today – is a terrible day about which nothing good can be said. It too, goes by unnoticed here, and with good reason. Six centuries ago, on the heels of a violent pogrom that destroyed the entire Jewish community of Seville, Christian mobs took to the streets and wrought the same havoc on the Jewish quarter of Barcelona, that at its peak was home to the largest single Jewish population of the Middle Ages: 4,000 Jews – fifteen percent of the city’s population. Continue reading

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Could Spain’s Berlin Wall Be Crumbling, Too?

In the pueblo of Palafolls (Catalonia), a plaza dedicated to "The Country of Sepharad" is commemorated with a wall of poured concrete. Photo taken by Janet Amateau

In the pueblo of Palafolls (Catalonia), a plaza dedicated to “The Country of Sepharad” is commemorated with a wall of poured concrete. Photo taken by Janet Amateau

A Spanish news item caught my eye recently about a medieval conference in Zamora Province, and today the Jerusalem Post has reported on it in English, which you can read here. It’s a very exciting story!

What it boils down to is that some Jewish scholars challenged Spain on the way textbook history is taught here. (They’re a little less than forthcoming or accurate.) Cervantes was the focal point of discussion. The evidence so powerfully pointed toward his being of Jewish ancestry that no one could deny this long promoted theory any longer. Hooray!

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