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.
A husband-and-wife team of University of Rhode Island professors presents a cookbook of medieval recipes that is, more significantly, a document of religious persecution during the Spanish Inquisition. Sixteen pages of endnotes and a six-page bibliography attest to its authority. Thousands of Iberian Jews were forced to convert to Christianity in the late 15th century, and while many assimilated, others clung to earlier customs--including dietary edicts. Gitlitz and Davidson report trial testimonies in which crypto-Jews--those who secretly struggled to maintain their Jewish identity and customs--were betrayed by what they ate, what they wouldn't eat and how their food was prepared. Recipes reconstructed for today's kitchens include dishes such as Isabel Gonzalez's Eggplant and Onion Stew and Blanca Ramierez's Meatball Stew. Another revealing dish is Radishes and Stuffed Crop, skin from chicken necks stuffed with radishes and herbs. Many meals reflect a fondness for the sweetness of honey and the savory blend of herbs and spices. They range from Mayor Gonzalez's Cold White Lamb Casserole, made with rose water, cinnamon and almond milk, to five different matzas, including one with mashed chestnuts. Gitlitz and Davidson offer an erudite look into both culinary and Jewish history.