When interviewed by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about his recollections of Sephardic life before World War II, Dr. Isaac Nehama described in detail the special characteristics of some of the special foods his mother used to make in their Athens home. Speaking for posterity, his choices were wise and wonderful, reflecting dishes unique to his parents’ native Monastir (Bitola), others universally Sephardic, some with their roots planted firmly in Spain and even earlier in Jewish history.
Even though he watched his mother prepare the same recipes countless times, he never ceased to marvel at the intriguing flavors, shapes and textures she produced each day for her family. He reminds me of my grandfather, who adored his mother’s cooking and always spoke of it with the same sense of wonder as Dr. Nehama, as if the transformation from raw ingredients to final product was somehow miraculous rather than the work of a skilled and practiced cook. Continue reading
My mother used to make what we called Ajada. It was made with soaked bread, eggs, fresh garlic and lemon juice. It was mixed and mashed together and we used it as a dip for meat. What is the origin of this food? Is it Turkish or Spanish or Greek? I would love a recipe if one is available. Did I ask this question before? Thanks and wish I could come and take a class with you.
Good question, Estelle.
Ajada, a traditional Sephardic condiment, has its roots right here where I live in the north western Mediterranean and is just one member of a broad category of emulsions that are used at table to flavor savory meals – meats, fish, soups, stews, vegetables, you name it. The word ajada is Ladino and translates loosely as ‘a thing made of/with garlic’ which, along with olive oil, is the basic recipe for the whole category. Between Catalan, Spanish, French, Langue d’Òc, Italian and umpteen different dialects of each, garlic & oil emulsion goes by at least a dozen different spellings, among them alioli, aioli, alhòli, alloli, ajjoli, aillade, and ajada. The French word in the group, aillade, is equivalent in structure to the Ladino ajada. The others you see here are all compound words, in various Romance languages, that mean garlic (allium – of the onion family) and oil (oleum). And with this many variations in the spelling alone, you can easily imagine the countless variations in the recipe – Continue reading