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. Continue reading