David M. Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson - A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain's Secret Jews

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A Drizzle of Honey: A Taste of the Past

May 14, 2001 (Updated Jan 23, 2004)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A combination of history book and culinary text, not to be missed!


The Bottom Line: History and cooking, two art forms that come together to open a door into a past -- research that is delicious as well!

I came across this one by accident and enjoyed myself immensely whilst reading it. A Drizzle of Honey curiously managed to save the very people it was meaning to destroy. Most folks too have the idea that medieval cooking was rotten, made with spoiled food, overly spiced, and everything was served either raw or burnt. This book puts to rest those thoughts and fears.

Back in Spain, in the time of the Inquisition, not only would the investigators would look at the person's religious practices, but also their dietary ones as well. A converso, a person who had converted to Catholicism from either Judaism or Islam, usually under penalty of death if they refused, would often become a secret practitioner of their original faith. Often this would involve some manuevering and deception on their parts.

So often the inquisitor would ask if So-and-so avoided certain foods. Did they eat pork? Did they combine meat and dairy products in the same dish or meal? Did they feast or fast on certain days? These questions would be asked of servants, friends, neighbors and family members of the person being investigated.

In so doing, and by making copious notes, the Spanish Inquisition unknowingly preserved the very people they were trying to persecute. The person's name, their personal habits, and many of the recipes in this book were written down, providing a guide to later inquisitors in their own investigations.

The book opens with a brief history of the Sephardi (Jews of Spanish or Mediterraean origin) and the Inquisition, and each person who was questioned has a short bio in the introduction, along with other notes. This is followed up with the charmingly titled chapter of "Cooking Medieval in a Modern Kitchen." The recipes are grouped as followed: Salads and vegetables, Eggs, Fish, Fowl, Beef, Lamb and Goat, Sausages, Meat and fish pies, Breads, Desserts and snacks, and Holiday foods. Each recipe is accompanied by various notes and bits of folklore, providing an excellent resource for anyone interested in either Jewish or culinary history. The recipes are fairly easy to follow, but do need a basic knowledge of cooking skills, and are quite delicious.

Some ingredients may be difficult to obtain, but well worth the effort of seeking out (such as cubebs or saffron). I personally recommend the empanadas. There is a copious bibiliography and index, along with some endnotes.

So indulge yourself with a glimpse of the past.

Recommend this product? Yes

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