Some blog updates!

As they always say New Year, new blog, right? Right! In the spirit of ~newness~ I want to share with you all some updates that this blog is currently undergoing.

First off, as some of you may have already noticed, there's a Press page of the blog!

  Now you can easily see all the places where Sara is spreading the Boka Dulse love!

Now you can easily see all the places where Sara is spreading the Boka Dulse love!

Yahoo! On this page you can read, listen, and watch all of the different media publications that have featured Sara, including her upcoming biweekly radio show (in Spanish) about Jewish food history for RadioSefarad.

Additionally, you'll find some new images, restaurant recommendations, and sites on the Travel page.

  Looking for travel inspiration and great tips? The newly-updated Travel section is where to go!

Looking for travel inspiration and great tips? The newly-updated Travel section is where to go!

Now you'll be able to explore my images and tips from my travels during this past year. Cities covered include: Madrid, Ávila, Burgos, Castilla, Granada, Lisbon, Salamanca, Tenerife, Toledo, Valencia, and Zaragoza. And if you're planning a trip and have any questions for me, feel free to write me a message .

  This could happen at your synagogue! Sign up here to have me come teach.

This could happen at your synagogue! Sign up here to have me come teach.

Finally, a big update for this blog can be found here. I've been doing a great deal of teaching over the past few months, and I'm offering my skills to any Jewish community that wants to come have me teach! Looking for an interesting way to engage synagogue members in Jewish learning? Want to find new ways to engage and interact with Jewish culture and community? Whether you're interested in Sephardic Jewish food history or want to know more about general Jewish food history and identity, I'd be delighted to come teach at your synagogue today. Customizable to your community's needs and schedule, I offer the options of one-off classes as well as class series. Classes include two parts: one on the theory of Jewish food and identity; the other dedicated to cooking the dishes we discuss in class. Contact me here today to set up a cooking lesson with me! 

Anyway, that's all for now folks! Keep your eyes peeled in the next couple of weeks for more new and exciting stories and history from your favorite Jewish food history blog, Boka Dulse.

Abrasos,

Sara

Reflection: Bokados from a Year in Madrid

I've been absent a while, dear readers, I know, and you must excuse me for it. These past few months have been a wild whirlwind of activity - going from conferences to radio interviews to cooking classes - that I haven't really had a moment to write it all down. Now, however, safely ensconced back in Connecticut for the foreseeable future, I've had a while to think about all that I did while in Madrid - much of which didn't necessarily make it to the pages of this blog, but that which I'd like to share with you all. So, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to take some time and space here to reflect on all the different projects I was lucky enough to work on and experiences I was lucky enough to have while in my dear Madrid. So here goes:

I started this blog - happy one year anniversary! - and updated it with recipes and adventures from across Spain, including stuffed peppers symbolic of Avila, the secret history of one of Spain's most famous cakes, and a babka inspired by Klimt.

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  The Basilica of San Francisco el Grande at sunset .

The Basilica of San Francisco el Grande at sunset.

I moved into one of Madrid's coolest neighborhoods, La Latina and discovered the joys of this quirky, cool barrio. Highlights include the weekly market of the Rastro, the specialty Syrian and Moroccan spice shops around the corner, and vibrant sunsets.

  Sunset on Calle Maldonadas, of el barrio La Latina.

Sunset on Calle Maldonadas, of el barrio La Latina.

At the beginning of my grant, I met a woman named Clara Maria Gonzalez de Amezúa - who I call the grand-dame of Spanish cuisine. She opened the famous cookery shop and cooking school Alambique, located right near the Teatro Real (Royal Theater) of the metro stop Opera. I had an amazing lunch at her incredible house outside of Madrid (profiled here in Elle Decor) and then was lucky enough to take a cooking class at her school, learning the delights and intricacies of Turkish cuisine.

  A delicious discovery from the Turkish cooking class: Turkish apricots sautéed in lots of butter and finished with chopped walnuts.

A delicious discovery from the Turkish cooking class: Turkish apricots sautéed in lots of butter and finished with chopped walnuts.

I worked in some great archives, including the Biblioteca Nacional and the Biblioteca Tomas Navarro Tomas of the Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales of the CSIC, finding fascinating sources on the history of Sephardic and Spanish Jewish food in medieval Spain - from Inquisitorial trials to 19th century cookbooks to the Edict of Expulsion itself.

I visited Morocco twice - once for my cousin's wedding and the other to lead a trip of college students across the north of the country, sampling couscous and tagines along the way. 

  An image of the last page of the Alhambra Decree, or Edict of Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, courtesy of Google images.

An image of the last page of the Alhambra Decree, or Edict of Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, courtesy of Google images.

  An Almoravide structure called a Qubiya, located in Marrakesh.

An Almoravide structure called a Qubiya, located in Marrakesh.

  At Yves St. Lauren's famous blue house in Marrakesh.

At Yves St. Lauren's famous blue house in Marrakesh.

I became highly involved in the Madrid Reform Jewish Community (check them out in this JTA article written by one of our very own members...see if you can spot me in one of the photos!), attending weekly Shabbats and events while also teaching a history-based cooking course for them. The class I taught explored Jewish identity through its diasporic kitchens. We made everything from Ashkenazi kugel to Sephardic keftes (leek fritters) to Yemeni doukeh (charoset). Get in touch with me on this page if you'd like me to come teach at your synagogue!

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  Teaching the course for the Madrid Reform Community in my very own Boka Dulse apron.

Teaching the course for the Madrid Reform Community in my very own Boka Dulse apron.

  Getting ready for my presentation at the 2017 Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery.

Getting ready for my presentation at the 2017 Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery.

I wrote and presented two academic papers at two prestigious conferences: one at the European Institute for Food History and Culture in the fabulous medieval city of Tours, France and the other at the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery - check it out in this Tweet here. I met one of my culinary heroes, Claudia Roden, at the Oxford conference too (how crazy is that!?). If you're interested, I'll be happy to share those papers with you (there will definitely be some forthcoming blogposts about them too, never fear!)

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I taught a class for The Gefilteria, an organization dedicated to "reimagining old world Jewish foods," on Sephardic culinary history. The class took place as a part of Brandeis University's GENESIS precollege program, and I had an amazing time teaching a group of engaged and engaging high school students about how Sephardic food came to be Sephardic food.

  A fun action shot from my cooking class on Shavuot culinary traditions.

A fun action shot from my cooking class on Shavuot culinary traditions.

I was featured on RadioSefarad's English Corner and Recetas con Historia programs, invited to talk about the history of Sephardic Jewish food in Spain. The links to those recordings will be out sometime in September - will keep you all posted! And until then, you'll have to wait to see what I talked about... (hehe).

I traveled to many of Spain's fabulous and vibrant cities, falling even more deeply in love with this country than ever before. For more information on where I went in each of those places, you can go to this page of the blog. For now, though, I'll leave you some of my favorite shots of the places I went.

  A shot of the famous Metropolis building on Calle Alcala.

A shot of the famous Metropolis building on Calle Alcala.

  The Church of Santa Maria de Pilar in Zaragoza.

The Church of Santa Maria de Pilar in Zaragoza.

  The Cathedral of Burgos.

The Cathedral of Burgos.

  The Matadero.

The Matadero.

While I learned a great deal for my research, I also discovered so many of the delights and nuances of Spanish people, country, and culture. I am so grateful for the many opportunities I've received this year to not only do what I love, but also to share it with others - this past year proves the power of sweet words in opening those iron gates. Not to mention grow a great deal myself. And now, back home, I have many more exciting things to look forward to and to share with you all -- so keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks for some fun updates of my forthcoming projects. Until then, remember to keep those words sweet ;)

  A beautiful sunlit view from the Torres de Quart in Valencia.

A beautiful sunlit view from the Torres de Quart in Valencia.

Abrasos,

Sara

 

A Tale of Two Documents

Note: I wrote this piece the day after Donald Trump was elected president and posted it on my Facebook profile. Due to the overwhelming response, and because I still feel as strongly now about what I wrote two weeks ago, I'm posting it here for posterity. That being said, I have made some minor edits to this piece to make it more appropriate to a non-Facebook format. I hope you enjoy it, or at the very least, engage with it - please don't hesitate to let me know what you think. And, on a brighter note, I've got more recipes coming soon. xo, S.

On Wednesday November 9th, 2016, the day that Donald Trump became the next president of the United States, I was in Ávila. I was there to see a copy of the Edict of Expulsion of the Sephardic Jews from Spain in 1492, also known as the Alhambra Decree. For those who know me and know the work I do as a Fulbright scholar, this date and, more precisely, this document, are extremely significant: they are, materially, why I study what I study and do the work I do. 

But even more than that, seeing this copy of the Edict – a parchment transcription of the text expelling the Jews, addressed to the municipality of Ávila and signed by the Catholic monarchs - illustrated for me in painfully ordinary detail what Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil. It was and is just a letter – one with a royal signature and seal, but still, in a way simply a glorified note. And yet it initiated one of the most traumatic dispersions within the greater Jewish diaspora –  one that, to this day, people recall with anguish as they invoke Ladino refrains and pass on the antique keys that unlocked their Spanish homes – and that had a tremendous impact on the medieval world (and therefore, our modern one). There were grooved creases running through the center of the page where it had been badly folded and fading words where the ink wore off through the years; the document could so easily be ripped or torn by the lightest touch. It was almost laughable how hate and oppression could take on such an unassuming, now fragile form.

And yet, there was an appropriate, painful irony to seeing this edict particularly on the day that the most bigoted, racist, sexist (the "ist" list goes on) candidate - one who I never imagined would be elected - was voted into the office of president of the United States. On the one hand, the very thing that this document enacted – the mass expulsion of a group of people predicated solely on their ethnic definition – is exactly what Donald Trump has proposed multiple times in his campaign, regarding countless groups of people, in nearly the same language (even despite the Edict of Expulsion being written in medieval Castilian). The Catholic monarchs expelled the Jews because of their “corrupting influence” on new Christian converts, their “concerted” effort to rob Old Christians of economic opportunity, and because of what the Catholic monarchs perceived as their maliciously closed off community. The language sounds all too familiar, just instead of Jews, Trump has referred to Latinos, African-Americans, women, and so on. It became starkly clear to me that even though the edict is 524 years old this March 31st, and was only officially revoked in 1968, its main sentiments of fear and scapegoating carry on; especially as embodied by those people in our country who seek to demonize, oppress, and expel others. In a twist of cruel irony, it uses nearly the same rhetoric in 1492 as the Trump campaign did in 2016, enacted into existence by the absolute power of monarchy. It seems to me that that is exactly the type of power Trump would like to have as president.

That brings me to what’s on the other hand, because 288 years ago, another document was signed into existence: the US Constitution. It is a document that affirms the rights of all people, no matter their race, religion creed, gender, age, sexual orientation, or political belief, to live and participate in the democratic process. It is a yellowed parchment testament to the value and validity of each individual’s lived experience. While the original document, I’m sure, is just as fragile as that of Ávila’s Alhambra Decree, it expresses exactly the opposite sentiments of the Edict of Expulsion. Even in its most basic language it’s completely different: those famous first three words of “we the people” stand in stark contrast to the introduction of the Edict’s “King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel, by the grace of God.” And that image, that represents exactly the opposite of the Alhambra decree, is that of the United States in which I firmly believe. It is the picture of a vibrant, diverse country of dynamic, intelligent people seeking, growing, innovating, and engaging profoundly with questions and the problems with which they are presented. It is a country of acceptance of difference, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable that coexistence may be. A country that does not push out people simply because of some arbitrary categorization or the belief in their inferiority. It is a country of love, not hate. Essentially, and intentionally, everything medieval Spain was not.

In the last 150 days of this election cycle, and even before that, I have looked around my communities - on Facebook and real life, in the United States and abroad - and all I have and continue to see are whip-smart, complex, active, passionate people who want and work to make the communities and lives around them better. People of the 21st century with a modern, and yes, even millennial, sensibility that I believe emphasizes the “we” over “me.” And knowing that they – you all – are out there gives me such profound hope I can't adequately express it. At the end of the day, I see people loving each other, embracing difference – choosing the “we the people” of our Constitution over the “I, the King” and “I, the Queen” of the Edict of Expulsion (and, let’s be real, the Trump campaign).

We in the United States are lucky enough to have a document that openly, explicitly advocates for equality and the valuation of each individual perspective. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty devastated Donald Trump is our new president. And it’s hard to accept this decision without deep sadness and anger on my part. But I have a deep faith in the way our political system peacefully transitions from one presidency to the next, no matter how disparate their political ideologies may be or how uncomfortable that transition is. A value enshrined by our governing Constitution. So, rather than letting this electoral decision define my next four years or, even worse, allowing it to create hate or anger in my heart – the type of hate that leads to documents like the Edict of Expulsion – I’m making the active choice to accept the election of a political ideology that is very different from my own. At the same time, I choose to advocate every single day of the next four years and beyond for the vision of the United States that I believe our Constitution sets out – one that enables the coexistence of different ideologies and experiences for the greater good of all – to not let us fall into the trap of hatred of the other that permitted the existence of the Edict of Expulsion. I choose to hope, and I hope reading this might help you choose it too.