- Full Title : A Drizzle of Honey: The Life and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews
- Autor: David M. Gitlitz
- Print Length: 352 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; 1st edition
- Publication Date: September 25, 2000
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312267304
- ISBN-13: 978-0312267308
- Download File Format: azw3
When Iberian Jews were converted to Catholicism under duress during the Inquisition, many struggled to retain their Jewish identity in private while projecting Christian conformity in the public sphere. To root out these heretics, the courts of the Inquisition published checklists of koshering practices and “grilled” the servants, neighbors, and even the children of those suspected of practicing their religion at home. From these testimonies and other primary sources, Gitlitz & Davidson have drawn a fascinating, award-winning picture of this precarious sense of Jewish identity and have re-created these recipes, which combine Christian & Islamic traditions in cooking lamb, beef, fish, eggplant, chickpeas, and greens and use seasonings such as saffron, mace, ginger, and cinnamon. The recipes, and the accompanying stories of the people who created them, promise to delight the adventurous palate and give insights into the foundations of modern Sephardic cuisine.
About the Author
David Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson are professors at the University of Rhode Island. Each has written several books on Spanish culture, including Gitlitz’s Secrecy and Deceit, an alternate selection of the History Book Club and winner of the 1996 National Jewish Book Award for Sephardic Studies and the 1997 Lucy B. Dawidowicz Prize for History. They are married and this is the first book they have written together. Their newest book is The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago, now available from St. Martin’s Press.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A Drizzle of Honey
Recipes, Stories & Commentary
Salads and Vegetables
Salads tend to be eaten raw, while vegetables are usually cooked, but the line of demarcation between the two has always been a thin one. Beets, peas, and spinach, for example, are served both cold and hot; they can stand alone as a main dish or be mixed with other ingredients. Lettuce can be eaten cold in a salad or fried in oil, and its stalks can be boiled with lots of sugar to make a conserve.1
Spanish culinary traditions and terminology complicate matters further. Spanish categories overlap: an hierba is a grass or an herb; a legumbre is a vegetable, but especially a legume; verdura gives the sense of something green; while an hortaliza is almost anything that grows in the huerta, or garden. All of these terms were used in the Middle Ages, sometimes interchangeably. Enrique de Villena’s Arte cisoria (The Art of Carving) lists twenty “yerbas,” including thistle, carrots, lettuce, turnips, onions, garlic, borage, purslane, fennel, caraway, and mustard.2 The seventeenth-century dictionary writer Covarrubiaseven uses the same two examples–lettuce and radishes–to illustrate two different categories, verduras and hortalizas. For Covarrubias, the legumbre has fruit that develops in a pod, while hierba denotes produce without stalks that can be either cooked in stews or served raw in salads.3
In the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, salads must have been ubiquitous. The occasional references suggest that they included a wider variety of ingredients than are common today. Covarrubias defines “salad” (ensalada) as “different herbs, meats, salted [ingredients], fish, olives, conserves, condiments [,] egg yolks, borage, sugared almonds, and a great diversity of things … .”4 He also tells us that its name derives from the custom of sprinkling the miscellany with salt (sal).5 The single salad recipe in the late fourteenth-century cookbook from the kitchens of English King Richard II lists more than a dozen different ingredients, including some still-common greens and herbs such as parsley, garlic, onions, and watercress, and others not quite so common: fennel, leeks, borage, mint, rue, and purslane.6 Renaissance literary references tell us about “sliced lettuces and carrots with oregano”7 and “onion … artichoke … and chopped cucumber.”8 Sources such as these suggest that anything green and edible raw could be thrown into a salad, but that a salad was not limited to greens. Other ingredients depended only on what was seasonably available. In the temperate regions of the Iberian Peninsula, including the humid north where varieties of chard are common, people could count on salad greens during much of the year. Though rarely cited, seasonal varieties of lettuce were undoubtedly common in salads. People then believed that lettuce contained properties that calmed lust and thus it was the symbol for continence.9
No matter what went into the salad, salt, vinegar, and oil were its constant dressing, and this is still the norm on the Spanish table. The account ledger of a sixty-eight-day journey in 1352 from Estella to Seville lists the purchase of vinegar on forty-three occasions generally accompanying some reference to salad makings, such as lettuce, radishes, and rocket. According to a Spanish proverb, “To make a good salad, four men are needed: for the salt, a wise man; for the oil, a prodigal man; for the vinegar, a stingy man; and to mix it, a crazy man … .”10 Granado’s recipe for cooked white beans insists that if they are to be served as a salad one must add vinegar and oil.11
Elsewhere during the rest of the year, people largely consumed cabbage and root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, and turnips. One popular proverb states, “There’s nothing better than turnips with cabbage.”12 Radishes were so common that they gave their name to several Iberian towns, such as the Salamancan and Leonese Rabanal. Other proverbs substantiate the radish’s popularity: “A tender radish, no matter the size, isgood” and “There is no good life without radishes and candles.”13 Covarrubias adds that radishes help people suffering from jaundice.14
The list of vegetables common in Roman Iberia was expanded when the Muslims introduced Eastern products, notably the chickpea and the eggplant.15 The Al-Andalus cookbook gives a good sense of the vegetables commonly consumed in Islamic Spain. Its “garden recipe” is for a green dish to be made from whatever happened to be in the garden. The author lists for summer: chard, squash, eggplant, fennel, and melon; for spring he suggests lettuce, fennel, fresh beans, spinach, chard, and cilantro. The directions make clear that any combination of these also could be used to make a vegetable broth which was thickened with eggs.16 The vegetables mentioned in the rest of his book, such as cauliflower, turnips, artichokes, squash, and spinach, are generally a part of a stew or a seasoning for meat. One notable departure is an emphasis on the eggplant, for which the Al-Andalus cookbook offers more than a dozen recipes.
A common characteristic of medieval cookbooks has been thought to be the scant attention they give to vegetables as stand-alone foods.17 However, two Christian Iberian cookbooks, Sent soví and Granado’s, devote space to Lenten dishes featuring vegetables, usually prepared as thick stews. In fact, Granado devotes an entire section to vegetable stews (escudillas de yeruas), with individual recipes for borage, chard, spinach, lettuce, chicory, malva, asparagus, squash, and chickpeas, some of which are made with meat broth and others with almond milk.18 We also find recipes for artichokes, asparagus, leeks, squash, cabbage, and mushrooms.
The medieval table included whatever was edible in its season. In addition, some vegetables were stored, or preserved, for later consumption when it was too cold for the greens to grow. We may infer that greens and legumes growing around the house were not highly prized, but they were eaten and probably eaten in great quantities, especially on non-meat days in the Christian calendar.19
Jews and crypto-Jews shared the taste for salads and vegetables. There is no reason to believe that the salads eaten by the crypto-Jews differed in any way from those eaten by their old-Christian neighbors. On the other hand, based on the frequency of references specifically associating them with Iberian Jews, eggplant, greens like chard, and chickpeas, combining equally well with meat, fish, and fowl, seem to have been defining characteristics of medieval Sephardic vegetable cuisine.
Juana Núñez’s Lechugas Y Rábanos
Lucia Fernández alleged that for lunch Juana Núñez used to give them “lettuce and radishes and cheese and cress and other things she does not remember.”20
Juana Nunez and her husband, Juan de Teva, a clothing merchant, practiced crypto-Judaism in Ciudad Real in the early sixteenth century. When the Inquisition’s curiosity focused on the couple, Juan fled to Portugal. The Spanish Inquisition tried him in absentia and burned his effigy on September 7, 1513.21 Juana was arrested on March 3, 1512, and her trial dragged on for two and a half years. Juana got along poorly with her neighbors, and the pettiness of their squabbles is evident in the malice with which they shared gossip about her with the Inquisition.
Malice aside, their testimony is rich in details about Juana’s crypto-Jewish customs. For example, Juana and her closest women friends used to fast during daylight hours on Mondays and Thursdays. According to one neighbor, in the afternoons when Juana’s sons Hernandico (twelve years old) and Antonito (thirteen years old) came home from school, to show their respect they would kiss their mother’s hand in the Jewish fashion, and she would put her hand on their heads and draw it down across their faces, but without making the sign of the cross.
Above all, Juana tended to keep the Sabbath fully, on Friday sweeping and scrubbing her house, preparing food to be kept warm until Saturday, and taking a bath with her crypto-Jewish friends Maria Gonzalez and Luisa Fernández and their daughters. She heated water in a large tub, into which she sprinkled rosemary and orange peels. After the bath, according to her servant Lucia Fernández, wife of the shepherd Francisco de Lillo, she used to hop straight into bed with her husband without quarreling the way they did on other weeknights. She had several strategies to abstain from working during the Sabbath. Again according to Lucia, her favorite was to pretend she had a headache and to throw herself down on some pillows until Saturday afternoon, when she routinely recovered and invited her women friends to her house for a social late afternoon to talk and snack and make jokes about the Catholic mass. It was at these Sabbath gatherings that Juana used to serve this salad.
The Inquisition found Juana guilty of Judaizing, but because so many of the prosecution witnesses were shown to be biased against her, Juana’s sentence was relatively light: to remain under house arrest, to wear the penitential San Benito robe, to abstain from wearing jewelry or any adornment, and to make confession a minimum of three times annually. Ten months later, at Juana’s petition, even these minor sentences were commuted.
Juana Núñez’s Lettuce and Radish Salad
1–2 ounces watercress 1/2 head green lettuce 2 cups torn-up other greens, such as a combination of radicchio, red lettuce, romaine, endive, or fennel 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint 3–4 radishes, sliced 1–2 ounces grated hard cheese, such as Romano or Manchego 1–2 teaspoons coarsely ground sea salt
1–2 teaspoons balsamic, cider, or red wine vinegar3 tablespoons olive oil
1. Remove the stems from the watercress. Chop the leaves into bite-size pieces.
2. Tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces. Toss all the greens together in a large bowl.
3. Top with the radishes and cheese.
4. Sprinkle with the salt.
5. Make the dressing: Pour the vinegar into a jar; add the olive oil. Cover and shake vigorously.
6. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well before serving, or pass a cruet at the table.
María Sánchez’s Verduras
Maria Sánchez testified that on Saturday in Guadalupe she had seen “lots of conversa women sitting by the doors of their houses eating greens with vinegar.“22
María Sanchez, the widow of the butcher Diego Ximenez of Guadalupe, was herself tried in 1485–86. The most damaging testimony came from her daughter Ines, who was also a prisoner. She told inquisitors that her mother had most likely confessed to all their Judaizing customs except three: that after the baptism of her son Diego she had scrubbed off the chrism; that she frequently donated oil for the lamps in the synagogue in Trujillo; and that she had taken the crucifix that her now-deceased husband had hung at the foot of their bed and had thrown it in the privy. Ines reported that when she went into her mother’s cell she found her despondent, moaning that she would be killed for what she had confessed. Ines said that she had asked her mother if she had mentioned the crucifix to the inquisitors, to which Maria replied, “Daughter, nobody knows it but you; so tell me if you talked about it, for if you didn’t I won’t say anything.”23 The fact that we have this datum proves that this attempt at collusion failed.
A principal witness against Maria was a serving girl who had become a confidante of one of Maria’s daughters. The daughter explained to her in great detail how in the time before the founding of the Inquisition the local crypto-Jewish community was accustomed to observing the Sabbath, and how in the afternoons they used to gather in the doorway of someone’s house to talk and munch on greens with vinegar.
María went to the stake on November 20, 1486.24
We have seen that the Spanish term verdura encompasses any edible green grown in the garden. The greens could have been eaten raw or cooked, sprinkled with vinegar or, perhaps, vinegar and oil. It is common in modern-day Spain to sprinkle vinegar over cooked green vegetables such as chard. Because we already have a number of clear references to salads that were eaten with vinegar, we have opted to interpret this reference to greens as a vegetable dish. Since we cannot be sure if the greens were cooked or not, we offer two recipes for this dish.
María Sánchez’s Greens
As a cold Dish
1 large bunch of greens (see Variations) 2 tablespoons other finely chopped fresh green herbs (see Variations) 1–2 tablespoons balsamic or red vinegar 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt
1. Wash the greens and pat them dry. Cut them into bite-size pieces and place them and the herbs in a large bowl. You should have about 8 cups.
2. Sprinkle with the vinegar and sea salt.
3. Mix well and serve.
As a Hot Dish
1 large bunch of greens (see Variations) 1–3 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons other finely chopped fresh green herbs (see Variations) 1–2 tablespoons balsamic or red vinegar 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt
1. Wash the greens and pat them dry. Chop them into medium-size pieces.
2. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Toss in the greens and herbs and stir-fry briefly Sprinkle the vinegar over the greens and stir it in. Continue to fry just until the vinegar has been absorbed, about 2 or 3 minutes.
3. Sprinkle with the salt and serve immediately.
Any green or combination of flavorful greens is possible. It is best to balance peppery or spicy flavors, like turnip, lovage, or mustard greens, with more bland ones, such as lettuces, radicchio, or spinach.
The herbs add diversity to the greens. Here are some possibilities:
2 tablespoons chopped chives or onions 1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill or fennel 1 tablespoon chopped nasturtium leaves 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
María Alvarez’s Acelgas Ahogadas en Aceite
In the Sorian city of Almazán in 1505, María Alvarez allegedly prepared “Swiss chard, parboiling it in water and then frying it with onions in oil, and then boiling it again in the oil. And then she threw in water and grated bread crumbs and spices and egg yolks; and she cooked it until it got very thick.”25
Medieval recipes generally distinguished between spices, herbs, and greens. Greens grew locally and were eaten as what we today term “vegetables,” generally in meat stews. The leaves of other plants, used for flavoring or for salads and not for bulk, were known as herbs.26 These were grown in the garden, or picked on the mountainside, where even today wild thyme, rosemary, oregano, and anise scent the boots of the Iberian hiker. Spices, on the other hand, tended to be the seeds, bark, or roots of plants. Some popular spices–mace and grains of paradise, for example–were not native to Iberia and had to be imported. Because they were exploited commercially and represented a significant expense, they show up in household accounts and were often mentioned specifically by cookbook writers. Other spices, such as caraway, mustard, and cumin, were cultivated on the Peninsula.
Any devotee of medieval cookbooks will notice four things with regard to these flavorful additions. The first is that they are used everywhere: on meats and fish, in sauces and gravies, in pastries and soups. If a dish is prepared in six stages, each stage is likely to contain spices. Second is the enormous quantity of individual herbs and spices used. When medieval recipes specify amounts, which is rare, the measures given for seasonings astound the modern cook.27 A cook faithful to the quantity of just the saffron specified in the Al-Andalus cookbook may need to take out a second mortgage. Third is the variety used, both in individual recipes and in the aggregate. An eggplant recipe in the Al-Andalus cookbook calls for dried and fresh cilantro, pepper, caraway, cumin, fennel, garlic, saffron, salt, citron leaves, rue, mint, and thyme.28 Nola’s sardine recipe requires pepper, ginger, saffron, almonds, pine nuts, parsley, and peppermint.29 Last, and most problematical for the modern cook, is that medieval spices seemed to have been used in a number of fixed combinations so well known to cooks that there was rarely any need to list them individually in the recipe’s directions. Some common combinations were given names: salsa fina contains ginger, cinnamon, pepper, cloves, mace, nutmeg, and saffron.30 “Duke’s powder” (polvo de duque) combines white sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.31 Another version adds nutmeg, galingale, and cardamom as well.32 Another mixture listed in Nola, salsa de pago, consists of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, grains of paradise, and saffron.33 One of Nola’s recipes for a roast stuffed chicken calls for ten separate seasonings (cinnamon, cloves, raisins, almonds, mint, parsley, saffron,sugar, rose water, and marjoram) plus an unspecified amount of salsa fina. The specific contexts of the generic references to “spices,” which appear in hundreds of medieval recipes, must have been transparent to their audience, even though they are often opaque today.
Individual spices, and many herbs, were thought to have specific properties related to the body’s four humors. They were important not only as flavorings but also to keep the body’s essential fluids in balance. Many had medicinal properties as well, which led taxonomists like the lexicographer Covarrubias to define spices as “those drugs which come from the Indies with which we flavor stews, like clove, cinnamon, ginger and pepper; not only these, but any other medicinal substance which is sold by pharmacists … .”34 Despite the modern myth, spices were not used in medieval kitchens to mask the unpleasantness of spoiled meat.35
Herbs and spices were known and used in antiquity: the Bible mentions several and the Talmud dozens more.36 The wealthy Roman Apicius used them profligately. Locally grown products were probably always part of every region’s cuisine, but there is good evidence that from as early as the tenth century Western Europeans had developed a craving for Eastern spices. An Iberian Muslim visiting the German city of Mainz, in the year 978, remarked about the quantity of spices for sale in the markets there and the role of the Jews in importing them from the Orient by way of Kiev. With the exotic tastes of the returning crusaders, the spice markets boomed. Jewish merchants participated in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean spice trades in the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries, in the African spice trade in the fifteenth century, and in the American trade, which added so many new flavors to Europe, in the sixteenth.37
Iberia’s Christian cooks did not have to go as far as the crusaders to acquire the taste for the highly spiced Islamic cuisine. Andalucia was a perfumed garden. As the Al-Andalus cookbook put it: “The knowledge of the use of spices is the principal base of the dishes of the kitchen, because it is the scent of cooking, and one builds on top of it.”38 The large-scale use of saffron as a colorant and of nuts, particularly ground almonds, are Islamic characteristics which northern European cooks also quickly adapted.39 Three other aspects probably derive from the Islamic palate: the heavy use of sugar as a sweetener, of citrus fruits, and of scented essences like rose water or orange-blossom water to perfume the food.
It is unlikely that Iberian Jewish cooking was in any way special in its use of herbs and spices. The Inquisition’s informants keyed on the principal ingredient of the main dish, its relation to the Jewish or Christian calendar of ritual, and a few foods–chard, chickpeas, eggplant–that old-Christians associated with Semitic cuisine. Spices did not attract their attention. Thus, given the pervasive imprecision with which most of the contributors reported these recipes to the Inquisition, two problems confronted us in preparing this book. Which spices to use? And in what amounts?
Our solutions were based on the following assumptions. Keeping the general principles that we have just outlined in mind, we searched for analogous recipes in cookbooks contemporary to Inquisition times. We concluded that in the kitchens of the socio-economic class of our contributors, the easily available Iberian seasonings would have been used a lot. These include thyme, rosemary, and oregano, caraway, and cilantro (dried and fresh leaves, as well as seeds), mustard, anise, fennel, citron, and saffron. Certain imported spices, like pepper and cinnamon, probably were available everywhere and were within the reach of the average budget. The account books of the Navarran travelers show near-daily purchases of garlic, pepper, and vinegar, and frequent purchases of mustard sauce.40 The extant late medieval Iberian cookbooks also cite these ingredients in abundance and mention a host of others–like galingale, grains of paradise, and cubebs–somewhat less often. Spices appearing in more than 10 percent of Sent soví‘s recipes are saffron, pepper, and ginger; those appearing in more than 20 percent of Nola’s recipes are cinnamon, ginger, pepper, and saffron.41
Finally, as we prepared our recipes, we looked for some indications of quantities. When none existed, the proof was in the pudding, so to speak. We experimented with a variety of amounts until we found a balance of flavors which would not occlude the dish’s main ingredients.
María Alvarez’s Boiled and Fried Swiss Chard
1 large bunch of Swiss chard (about 60 leaves and stems) 5–6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed 1–11/2 cups finely chopped onions 2 teaspoons caraway seeds 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 tablespoon Salsa Fina (page 23) 10 egg yolks, beaten 2/3–¾ cup water 2/3 cup ground bread crumbs
1. Wash and drain the chard leaves and stems. Chop them into 1-inch pieces. Simmer them for 15 minutes in a large, covered pan of water. Drain and press out the excess water. This should make about 3 cups of greens.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and stir-fry until just transparent, about 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the chard and continue to fry. If the oil is completely absorbed, add 1–2 tablespoons more.
4. Grind the spices together. Add them to the frying chard and mix them in evenly.
5. Mix the egg yolks and water. Add the bread crumbs to the liquid and stir briskly.
6. Stir the egg yolk mixture quickly into the frying chard. Move the skillet back and forth over the heat so that the resulting omelet won’t stick.
7. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the omelet is firm. With a spatula, turn the omelet over and cook another 5 minutes. Serve warm.
This dish can also be baked. Complete the first 5 steps of the recipe.
6. Remove the frying pan from the heat and allow the chard to cool.
7. Preheat the oven to 350°. Pour 1 tablespoon oil into a medium ovenproof glass casserole or two small ones. Put the casserole(s) into the oven to heat.
8. Combine the chard with the egg yolk mixture in a bowl and then pour it into the heated casserole(s).
9. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bottom of the casserole begins to turn golden brown. Serve hot or cold.
Mayor González’s Cazuela de Huevos y Zanahorias
Juana García testified that Mayor Gonzalez cooked “a casserole of eggs and carrots and spices and other things” on Friday and ate it cold on Saturday 42
Pedro Nunez Franco and his wife, Mayor González, lived in a large house in Ciudad Real next to a convent. Juana Garcia, wife of the laborer Miguel Rodriguez of Las Casas, a village near Ciudad Real, had a fourteen-year-old son, Miguel, who served in the Núñez Franco household. One Friday in 1510, just before Christmas, when Juana went to visit her son, she observed Nunez Franco slaughtering a goose in the Jewish fashion by cutting its throat.
During the visits to her son, Juana made note of several other Judaizing customs of the González-Núñez Franco family. On Fridays they kept a lamp burning all night long, and she reported hearing Mayor ask the serving girls to put a new wick in the lamp. She said that she heard Pedro Nunez Franco singing in bed, but that she couldn’t understand the words. She also related that she had seen a group gather at the home for a Sabbath meal, and she listed by name the thirteen people at the table.
Another Friday she saw Mayor González prepare this Sabbath dish for the family. When questioned further, she stated that it may also have had meat in it, but that she personally had not seen it.43
Even though inquisitors found little evidence of Mayor’s Judaizing after 1483, nonetheless she was sentenced to life imprisonment and confiscation of property. This was later reduced to certain penances, and eventually commuted altogether.
Mayor gonzález’s Casserole of Eggs and Carrots
2 cups baby carrots 2 cups Vegetable Broth (page 24) 2 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely diced 2 eggs, beaten 2 green onions, thinly sliced (about 2 tablespoons) 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese 1/2 teaspoon ground dried cardamom ¼ teaspoon cloves (optional) 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon bread crumbs or matza meal
1. Boil the carrots in the vegetable broth for 10 minutes, or until fork-tender. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the liquid. Cool. Slice the carrots lengthwise in half or in thirds.
2. In a bowl, combine the carrots, hard-boiled eggs, and onions. Add the beaten eggs.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°. In another bowl, mix the cheese and spices. Add the bread crumbs and stir. Pour the dry mixture into the carrot mixture and combine.
4. Lightly grease an 8-inch round or square (glass) ovenproof baking pan. Place the mixture in the pan and level it out. It should be about 1 inch thick. Bake 45–60 minutes, or until the bottom just begins to brown.
5. Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 6 hours.
This dish can be served hot as well.
This casserole recipe is the most basic one.
Try adding either or both of the following ingredients in step 2:
1/2 cup raisins ¼ cup sliced olives
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar over the top before baking.
Juan Sánchez Exarch’s Hamín de Berzas
The converso Juan Sanchez Exarch was accused of “ceremonially (i.e., with religious intent) eating a Sabbath dish called hamín, made of chickpeas and spinach or cabbage.“44
Juan Sanchez Exarch’s trial began in Teruel in October of 1484. The first nineteen of the fifty-three articles of his indictment give a good picture of the breadth of Judaizing activities in the region just prior to the 1492 expulsion.
1. Sanchez Exarch keeps the Sabbath as the Jews do.
2. Specifically, on the Sabbath he eats food cooked on Friday and warmed over.
3. He eats this food, called hamin, ceremonially.
4. He lights clean lamps on Friday nights as the Jews do.
5. On the Sabbath he puts on clean clothes and clean tablecloths on the table.
6. On the Sabbath he abstains from selling and making contracts or handling money.
7. On the Sabbath he won’t walk, but he walks about on Sunday to show his scorn for that holy day.
8. On the Sabbath he meets with the Jews.
9. He celebrates the Passover, on that day eating matza, celery, and lettuce, as the Jews do.
10. He gets unleavened bread from the Jewish neighborhood on the Passover.
11. He buys new dishes for the Passover.
12. He does everything else the Jews do on Passover.
13. He celebrates the Festival of Booths.
14. He makes a hut of branches outside his house; if he can’t do it there, he goes to the home of a Jewish relative or a bad Christian to construct the hut, and eats almond pastries with them.
15. He also celebrates the Festival of the Horn,45 of Haman, and of Taamuz when the holy temple was lost.
16. He keeps the fasts of Quipuz, called the Pardoning Fast, and of Haman, and of Taamuz, and then in the evening breaks his fast with beef or chicken.
17. He does not observe the holidays of the Church, nor keep the Christian fasts.
18. He believes more in Moses than in Jesus, and prays in Hebrew, swaying back and forth, facing the east.
19. He washes his hands before praying.46
After a two-year trial and an extensive confession in which he confirmed these and other practices, Sánchez Exarch was condemned to death in 1486. His children and grandchildren were disqualified from ever holding public office or entering the clergy.
Juan Sánchez Exarch’s Cabbage Stew
1–1¼ pounds green cabbage 6 tablespoons olive oil 6 cloves garlic, diced 2 (19-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained 1 cup broth 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1. Wash the cabbage and drain it. Cut it into 1–11/2-inch pieces.
2. Heat the oil in a large stew pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and fry it until it begins to turn golden, about 6 minutes.
3. Add the cabbage. Stir-fry for 4–5 minutes over medium heat, until the cabbage begins to wilt.
4. Add the chickpeas, broth, salt, pepper, and spices. Cover the pan. Turn the heat to low.
5. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. For less broth, uncover the pan the last 15 minutes of cooking. Serve hot.
Although the Sanchez Exarch family ate this dish as a Sabbath stew, it can be cooked a shorter time (10–15 minutes) for a crisper cabbage.
Isabel vélez’s Olla de Acelgas con Queso
In Almazán in 1501, an anonymous witness reported that when Isabel Vélez’s father died, the family sat at a low table near the door, and ate “a casserole made of chard and bread crumbs and cheese,” which Isabel had prepared at home and brought to her father’s house.47
Isabel’s father was evidently a first-generation convert who made his living as a toll collector. A servant noted that before going to bed he used to mutter phrases in Hebrew, which he followed with the Latin “Our Father.” 48 A neighbor woman named Teresa, who served in the house, noted that when family members sat down to eat “she never heard them say any Christian prayers like the ‘Ave Maria,’ the ‘Our Father,’ the Creed, or the ‘Hail Mary,’ nor had she seen them cross themselves.”49
When Isabel’s father, Pedro Velez, was dying, he reputedly asked to be buried in the Jewish fashion in virgin soil.50 The neighbor Teresa noted that he had not received the last rites, and that no one in the family had recited any Catholic prayers as he lay dying.
The Church’s Edicts of Grace, which included checklists of customs indicative of heresy, generally listed a number of Jewish funerary customs. This edict, from 1639, was promulgated in Mexico:
[Judaizing is suspected] if when some person is at the point of death, he turns to the wall to await death and then [the corpse] is washed with warm water, shaving the beard and under the arms and other parts of the body, and attiring it with clean linen, under drawers, and shirt and cover, which is folded over the top, and putting a pillow with virgin soil under the head, or money in the mouth, or a misshapen pearl or some other thing. Or singing some funeral dirge or throwing out the water from the large jars and emptying all the containers with water in the house of the deceased and all other houses of the area as a Jewish custom; eating fish and olives on the floor behind the doors; not meat because of sorrow of their loss; not leaving the house for one year in accordance with the observance of the laws. Or if they are buried in virgin soil or in a Jewish cemetery.51
In their cross-examination of witnesses in the Pedro Velez investigation, the inquisitors went right down the list. “No,” the servant Teresa answered, “I did not see him wrapped in his shroud because I was not present, nor do I remember if they poured the water out of all the pitchers in the house when he died … . I did see that when it was time to eat they set a bushel basket covered with a cloth on the floor near the door, where I never saw them eat on any other day. And I saw them bring from the house of Luis Velez, his son-in-law, the tailor, a new-Christian … a pot of chard and cheese and bread crumbs … . They also brought with them the dishes they served it on, and they brought them secretly, and when they went in …Luis Velez said, ‘Give me those dishes; I don’t want people to see what we have hidden here.'”52
Typical of Iberian Jewish funerals was a communal meal eaten in the house of the deceased following the burial. The food most commonly served was hard-boiled eggs, in accordance with the dictates of the legal compendium Kol Bo (1490), which says that they are “symbolic of the roundness of the world and the mourning which comes to us all.”53 Also common was the consumption of fish, which is reported at funerals of Judaizers from the 1480s and over the next two hundred years.54 Even more important seems to have been the specific prohibition against eating meat, the consumption of which was a sign of ostentation and not mourning. After funerals in Majorca in the 1670s, Judaizers ate rice fried in olive oil, which they called “funeral food.”55 Juan de Chinchilla testified in 1484 that at funerals in Ciudad Real the Christians would sit “at their table where they ate chicken, and the converts on the floor ate chickpeas and eggs.”56 At funerals in the 1630s the Mexican Vaez family ate raisins, almonds, salad, homemade bread, and chocolate, but never any meat.57 And the Velez family in Almazán prepared this dish of chard and cheese.
We have found evidence of one other culinary custom related to dying. In Mexico in the 1640s crypto-Jews in the Machorro clan often fasted on the anniversary of a loved one’s death. The night before the fast they ate a soup made of bread soaked in water and salt.58
Isabel vélez’s Chard and Cheese Casserole
2–3 tablespoons olive oil 2 cloves garlic, diced 1 medium onion, chopped 6 cups chopped chard (about 15 stalks), chopped in 1-inch pieces ¼ cup grated hard cheese, such as Manchego or Romano ¼ cup fine bread crumbs 1/2 teaspoon salt 6 thin slices Cheddar Cheese (about 3 ounces), to top the casserole
1. Heat the oil in a medium-size ovenproof pan. Add the garlic; stir-fry 3 minutes. Add the onion and continue to stir-fry until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chard. Stir gently until the chard reduces by half, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°. Mix the cheese, bread crumbs, and salt in a bowl to combine them evenly.
3. Smooth the chard mixture evenly into the pan. Stir half the cheese mixture into the chard. Pour the rest of the cheese mixture on top. Top with the Cheddar slices.
4. Bake in the oven 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Serve hot.
This basic recipe invites variations. It is likely that several spices were used in its preparation in the Velez household. Try adding 1–2 teaspoons Salsa Fina (page 23).
The Cota wedding Berenjena con Acelguilla
“At the wedding,” conversos were served ” … lots of eggplant and Swiss chard seasoned with saffron.”59
Late fifteenth-century conversos were evidently so fond of eggplant that the satirical literature of the day is filled with pointed references to this predilection. Typical is the burlesque poem by Rodrigo Cota about a converso wedding at which the guests were served this vegetable.
The courts that grouped around fifteenth-century Castilian kings included a number of poets and court fools who entertained the monarch, the nobility, and each other with scurrilous satiric poetry that insulted women, the handicapped, conversos, and other marginalized members of their society, often using some topical event–a boar hunt, a dance, a wedding–as a pretext for skewering people who were well known at court. Many of the poets and fools themselves were conversos, and everyone in that milieu knew enough about Jewish customs to understand the burlesque allusions to Jewish practice. These poetic jibes, later gathered into songbooks known as Cancioneros, often provide interesting anthropological data about contemporary customs, including Jewish cooking.
The sixty-five-stanza poem that alludes to this dish poked none-too-gentle fun at conversos who attended the wedding of the grandson of Diego Arias Dávila,60 the notorious converso finance minister of King Enrique IV of Castile, to a girl related to the family of Cardinal Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza. Rodrigo Cota, who was not invited to the wedding, decided to make his pique public with this poem. The recipe is in stanzas 41–42.
The Cota wedding Eggplant with Chard
1 medium eggplant (about 2 pounds) 2 tablespoons salt 1 large bunch of swiss chard (about 50 leaves and stems) 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads 1 medium onion, sliced 1/2 cup water or Vegetable Broth (page 24) 1 teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon white pepper
1. Peel the eggplant and cut it into ¼-inch-thick slices. Soak it 30 minutes in heavily salted cold water (about 2 tablespoons salt to 3 cups water). You may have to put a weight on the eggplant to keep it from bobbing to the surface. Rinse it thoroughly three or four times. Press out as much liquid as possible between paper towels.
2. Wash the Swiss chard. Cut the large stems into 1-inch lengths.
3. Heat the olive oil and saffron in a large frying pan over medium-low heat until the oil begins to turn yellow, about 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Saute the onion and chard stems in the saffroned oil until they are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the eggplant slices.
5. Add the water or broth. Cover. Boil for 8 minutes. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes more. Meanwhile, chop the chard leaves into 1-inch pieces.
6. Add the chopped chard leaves, cover, and simmer for an additional 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Berenjenas con Huevos
Conversos were frequently accused of eating “casseroles of eggplant with eggs.”61
The eggplant (berenjena) belongs to the rather large horticultural family of Solanum, which also includes the potato and nightshade. Melongena is the term that designates the eggplant, and there are several varieties. It was known in the eastern Mediterranean before the tenth century.62
Eggplant appeared relatively early in the Hispanic Middle Ages as well. Legend has it that the Muslims who had conquered the Peninsula early in the eighth century brought a poisonous eggplant variety purposefully to kill the Christians.63 Eggplant of the nontoxic sort is documented in Iberia in the twelfth century. The thirteenth-century Al-Andalus cookbook contains more than a dozen eggplant recipes, including one called “Eggplant, Jewish Style.”64 Apparently the eggplant was cultivated first on the east coast of the Peninsula in Cataluña and then spread throughout the south. The fourteenth-century Sent sovi has four recipes for eggplant65 and Nola’s early sixteenth-century Catalan cookbook gives six recipes. Sixteenth-century comments on the eggplant speak of varieties colored white, yellow, and purple. Perhaps the earliest reference to the eggplant in European non-Iberian sources is found in a 1570 Italian menu for Pope Pius V in which it was combined with various spices in a sauce accompanying fried veal liver and sweetbreads.66
Common lore held the eggplant in low esteem, as Covarrubias corroborated when he said that eggplants have insipid taste and bad texture and engender melancholy, making for a sad spirit.67 What is crystal clear is that in Iberia the eggplant was closely associated with Semitic cultures. One of Nola’s recipes is called Berenjena ala morisca (“Eggplant Moorish Style”). From as early as the fifteenth century, Toledo–considered the heartland of medieval Iberian Semitic culture–was proverbially linked to eggplant.68 In the second volume of Don Quijote (1615) the imaginary Muslim chronicler Cide Hamete Benengeli is, by slip of Sancho’s tongue, called “Cide Hamete Berenjena.”69
The following recipe emphasizes the reddish-purple color of the eggplant in contrast with the yellow of the egg yolks.
Eggplant and Eggs
1 medium eggplant (about 2 pounds) 2 tablespoons salt 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 clove garlic, chopped 3 hard-boiled Vermilioned Eggs (page 76) (see Notes) Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut the unpeeled eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Place them on two layers of paper toweling. Sprinkle them with the salt. Leave for 20–30 minutes. With paper towels, firmly pat the eggplant as dry as possible.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the chopped garlic. Stir–fry for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the eggplant and fry slowly over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often.
4. Shell the hard-boiled eggs. Cut into eighths.
5. In a serving bowl, mix the eggplant and eggs. Season with salt and pepper.