Tag Archives: Spain

Where’s the Beef? (All About Mina, and Some Medieval Haggadahs)

Last weekend I went to see the Medieval Haggadah exhibition that’s just opened at the Barcelona History Museum. For the first time since the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, eight illuminated Haggadot produced in Catalunya in the 14th & 15th centuries are in their country of origin, after having been smuggled out hundreds of years ago to save them from destruction.

Barcelona Haggadah 28v29r.lI was hoping one or two of them might be opened to illustrations of a Medieval Catalan Seder table (like the illustration to the right), and that among the foods represented I might spot a mina. It wasn’t an unrealistic expectation. Mina is a meat pie that’s unique to Spanish Jews, essential to our Passover meal, and as significant for us as any ritual element of the Seder. But the why of its importance has been a huge mystery for generations. I grew up without ever hearing any explanation for its presence on the table, only that it must (!) be there. And no wonder: it took me years to unravel the mystery  myself, and I had to move to Spain to finally get to the bottom of it. Today I begin to explain it all for you. If pies could talk… Continue reading



Filed under History, Holidays (fiestas judias)

Real live Seder, coming soon to a Spanish town near you!

La Voz de Galicia announced last week that on March 25 the Galician town of Ribadavia will celebrate its first Passover Seder in 500 years, in the Sephardic tradition, in a restaurant in the Jewish quarter.

Ribadavia is actually a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time, because my grandfather’s ancestors were from Galicia, though I don’t yet know which specific town or place. It wasn’t until after his funeral that I thought to ask whether that side of the family knew where in Spain they’d come from.  “Galicia,” said my great uncle Ben, just like that. They’d known all along. Uncle Ben was only 92 then, sharp as a tack, and lived to be 101. I should have asked more questions.

I was actually planning to visit Ribadavia in the summer of 2001, but I got invited to the wedding of friends in Ireland – so close! – and went there instead. (The marriage didn’t last, but it was hands down one of the best weddings I’ve ever attended.) Continue reading


Filed under Holidays (fiestas judias)

Guëvos Haminados / Huevos Jaminados (Glosario)

Hay un articulo nuevo hoy en el glosario castellano, sobre los “huevos jaminados”.  Se lo encuentra aquí.

Leave a comment

Filed under Escrito en castellano, Glossary, History, Holidays (fiestas judias)

Ouevos Haminados

GUEVOS HAMINADOS   (“GWEH-vos hä-mi-NÄthos”)  – The word ham in hebrew means “warm”; haminado is a Ladino adjective meaning “warmed.”  Far from ordinary, these “warmed eggs” acquire a velvety texture and an intoxicating, smoky onion flavor from a six-hour bath in warm water and onion skins – slow cooking really does make a difference.  Besides lending their marvelous flavor, onion skins also act as a natural dye.  If the eggshells remain intact, the eggs turn a delicate shade of light brown, like a very pale cup of coffee, and when cracked they take on a striking range of deep reds and unique patterns that suggest marble.  It’s a fairly safe bet that the inspiration for dyed Easter eggs began with this custom.

Guevos haminados are one of many Jewish foods that pre-date the Inquisition.  Although eggs were commonplace in all cuisines of Medieval Europe, it was well known in Spain that slow-braising whole eggs was a technique unique to the Jews.  More than a few conversos were imprisoned or sentenced to death on the basis of their having continued to eat ouevos haminados.  500 years after the expulsion, eggs in general remain an important component of the Ottoman-Sephardic diet (and, I should add, the Spanish diet as well).

Guevos haminados are generally most associated with the Sabbath desayuno (breakfast) and with Passover, when they appear on the Seder plate, but they are a fundamental element of Ottoman-Sephardic cuisine, eaten on their own or incorporated into other dishes – for example, baked into a meatloaf (without the shell, of course).


Filed under Glossary, History, Holidays (fiestas judias)