My zucchini cuajado. Not in any book. (Yet).
An achingly long time ago I promised to recommend Sephardic cookbooks that I especially like. My recommendations have been slow in coming (I’m picky), and I know that slogging through old blog posts to find them is a chore, so I’ve finally gotten them together in a single tabbed book page. Yay!
These are fine books, representing different Western Sephardic tastes and traditions. Most of them aren’t very well known, but I think they should be. The list includes reviews (mine) and links, the selection is very personal – and very short, though I expect it will grow. I hope you enjoy this new feature!
Whenever Sephardic food is mentioned, our thoughts typically go straight to baked goods. This is where Linda Capeloto Sendowski has focused her first cookbook, Sephardic Baking from Nona and More Favorites.
Linda Sendowski grew up in Seattle in the 1950’s, luxuriating in the tastes and aromas of her mother’s and grandmother’s traditional Sephardic kitchens. Her own baking reflects that environment in the best possible way; the book invites you to experience Sephardic baking as warm and welcoming comfort food, a beautiful, rustic treat for all the senses.
What constitutes Sephardic food? Beyond the traditional recipes so easily recognizable as “ours” – the borekas, boyos, haminados, etc. – our cuisine has been shaped by religion, migration, and a complex history. We are not just cooks; we are guardians of our culture and heritage. This responsibility always weighs on the mind of a serious Sephardic cook. Yet we are also enthusiastic assimilators. Both spirits are at work in Sendowski’s recipes.
The majority are classics from Rhodes, with a few Sephardic and Ashkenazi selections from other continents, and others of her own invention. Everything comes together through Sendowski’s filter and the sure hand she inherited from her mother, whose memory and bendichas manos she lovingly honored by making this book. Continue reading
It’s Pi Day, so here’s something to chew on.
Most parents aren’t prepared to teach their children a first language, let alone a second one. They just talk to their babies who, being babies, soak it all up, and before you know it they’ve figured out how to make themselves understood around the house. The next time languages come up, the kids are turning twelve and on their way to junior high. I believe this is the real reason so many Sephardim of my generation never learned to speak Ladino.
As small children, my siblings, cousins and I already knew we belonged to something very special. Even so, we were kept a little bit apart from our culture, observers as much as willing participants in our living heritage. We learned to cook. (Delicious!). We learned our family history. (Fascinating!). We learned traditional melodies. (Beautiful!). But when it came to their utterly charming language, most bets were off. Though we may have heard it every day, my elders more often spoke at us in Ladino (typically to shower us with endearments) than with us. Nor with my dad, who they adored ( in case you’re wondering), and he had even taken up Spanish when he was dating my mom. Continue reading
I can’t think of a single holiday when chocolate confections weren’t served in our home. It was the Sephardic relatives, not the Ashkenazim, to whom it mattered most. It had to be on the dessert table, or some kind of self-imposed shame would befall the hostess. Not in the recipes, mind you. On the side. Boxed chocolates, and the fancier the better.
I’ve only occasionally dwelled on that distinction between the two groups of relatives, probably precisely because we don’t incorporate chocolate into very many of our traditional recipes. But when you stop to think that Spanish & Portuguese Jews and conversos were among the earliest (and most active) traders during the Age of Discovery, a strong historical link between Sephardim and chocolate seems fairly obvious. Continue reading