The Perfumed Garden – the contribution of Spanish Jews to food & cooking
June 13, 2009
This little collection of thoughts, notes, histories and recipes was inspired by Madeleine Brener, who is not Spanish but who is Jewish. However, I am both, by way of other places, which is not uncommon in the Jewish world.
Before the Islamic invasion, there were Jews in Spain. But it was during the “Golden Years” of Al-Andalus that the Jews thrived. The Muslims brought with them, amongst other things, aubergines and chickpeas. The Jews took these new foods around Spain, where they became part of Spanish kitchens and there they still remain. If you’ve ever eaten a savoury dish with pine nuts and raisins, you’re eating Spanish-Jewish heritage. Jewish merchants delivered oriental spices to medieval markets via Kiev and when the conquistadors returned with foods from the New World like tomatoes and chile peppers, the Jews were the ones who took them to all corners of the Mediterranean and Europe.
Cumin, mace, cinnamon and honey were the favourite flavourings of Spanish Jews back in the days of Al-Andalus and throughout the terrible years of the Spanish Inquisition. Today, the flavours of oranges, lemons, almonds, pine nuts and raisins persist in Spanish cooking and are, in part, legacies of its Jewish past.
There are, of course, many books already on the subject of Jewish food and I make no claim to bettering them. Food historian and writer Claudia Roden is the last word on Jewish and Middle Eastern food, so if it is authenticity you seek rather than some girl’s delight in sharing Jewish-Spanish recipes with you, then please check out Ms Roden’s amazing and authoritative Book of Jewish Food.
I hope you enjoy what delights me – stories about food, recipes included, not just a list of ingredients and how-to-do. Don’t expect exact quantities because the eye is everything, though this comes with experience and learning is all part of the fun. Improvise. Make it better. Tell me about it.
Food is meant to be enjoyed and shared and my table in the Perfumed Garden of Andalucia awaits you.
Entry Filed under: Food, cooking, Jewish, Spanish