Jewish mixed marriages have been commonplace for decades, but they’re still more successful under the chuppa than they are in the kitchen. Claudia Roden dismissed the idea altogether in “The Book of Jewish Food,” writing “…there was no fusion of styles, no Ashkenazi-Sephardi hybrids, and no unifying element.”
This is such a hard and fast rule that when I got a letter asking me to help track down the origins of a long lost “Sephardic liver pie” recipe, I was utterly amazed, if not a little horrified.
“My grandmother Virginia usually served it at Thanksgiving,” wrote Alan Moskowitz, “and it was always referred to as stuffing.” Stuffing sounded so much more appealing than “liver pie,” and it did get me past my initial shock. The description was frankly mind-blowing, a cross between chopped liver on sourdough rye and mina, a light-textured, ground beef and matzah pie that’s as connected to the Ottoman Sephardic Passover meal as the Seder plate itself. He might as well have described a lasagna soufflé. Clearly this recipe was a deliberate fusion of the two cuisines.
Spanish cuisine is at a critical moment. Ferran Adrià, arguably the world’s most influential chef, will close his historic restaurant, El Bulli, July 30 to start a culinary foundation and think tank. The restaurant, which puts humor, illusions and even irony on the plate through the use of molecular gastronomy and other remarkable cooking techniques, did more than make waves in the world of Spanish food — it pushed the limits of cuisine around the globe. “Spain has transformed itself into the world’s effervescent center of gastronomic creativity,” noted cookbook author Claudia Roden writes in her new book, “The Food of Spain.”
Writers like Julia Moskin at The New York Times and prominent members of the food community have pondered what will happen to Spanish cuisine without El Bulli. Some fear that the closing will hurt the country’s culinary tourism business; others hope it will allow light to shine on lesser-known chefs. But no one is certain.
Standing on a precipice, unsure of what lies ahead, is perhaps the best time to look backward. “You have to look into the past to understand Spain’s complex gastronomic map,” Roden writes. Her immense and exhaustive new book does just that. The tome is an indispensable guide to the country’s traditional cuisine, tracing the cultural and religious roots of many of its signature ingredients, dishes and culinary traditions.
You've successfully signed up!
Thank you for subscribing.
Please provide the following optional information to enable us to serve you better.
The Forward will not sell or share your personal information with any other party.
Thank you for signing up.Close