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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!)
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.
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.
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 ;)