Alheira & Foole: Two Foods of Large Impact
September 30, 2017 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Alheira is a sausage used by Portuguese Jews to fool the Inquisitors. It's now considered one of the jewels of Portuguese cuisine, though it's strayed considerably from its early recipe of no pork and bread filler. In the 16th century, a Foole arose as a dessert in England, usually a custard with gooseberries. Very recently, a historian and a re-enactor made a Fool to sample and share.

And the New Yorker magazine wrote about what happened next. Orange Fool. I was going to say my mind boggled, but my poor mind refused.
posted by MovableBookLady (17 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Umm. The notion of Jews living side-by-side in harmony with their Muslim rulers on the Iberian peninsula is mostly fantasy. There were times when the local rulers were tolerant and inclusive, sure. There were long stretches of time where that was not the case, and hell and horror was an everyday occurrence for those not of the faithful.

Agreed, the Catholic Church held a deep grudge and did horrible things, to Muslims as well as Jews, and were far more organized about it when it came to the Jews, but Al-Andalus was not as tolerant or enlightened as is popularly advertised.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:08 PM on September 30 [8 favorites]


Also, I live two miles from the most amazing Portuguese butcher, and while they have a dozen fine cheeses you'll never find at a Whole Foods, and seven kinds of linguicia and chourico (prononced "sha-reese") - fresh, cured, smoked, aged - and four different kinds of blood sausage, I have never heard of before today alheira. I am absolutely certain it is a thing, but its popularity stems after the mass emmigration a century back.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:17 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]


I watched one of those Townsend videos and now YouTube is constantly recommending them to me and I keep watching them so obviously it knows something about me. The video where he responds to the Orange Fool controversy by earnestly pleading with YouTube commenters to stop being so angry and political was a bizarre change of pace when I got it randomly suggested.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:25 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]


Alheiras are delicious. And versatile, too. Once bought one, mixed the paste-y interior in a bowl with some shredded olive, mixed it up and made little tarts with that and puff pastry. There are pre-made versions of that on sale, but they're expensive compared to buying one and a sheet of premade puff pastry.

There was also once a huge social media fight on how to serve it, between the camps of fried with eggs and fries and oven-roasted with boiled potatoes, and people had REALLY STRONG OPINIONS about it. In part because there was some kick back against foodies who think their way of eating something is the only acceptable way.

And speaking of chouriço, I've just cut and seasoned a lot of them so tomorrow I can make another giant chouriço bread. Basically make regular bread, but before the final mix before going to the oven, add a significant number of full slices, quarter slices, thin bits (these go first, so they dissolve a bit in during mixture and further as it baked to give extra flavour to the dough). The house smells of suspicious looking taverns for a long while.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:56 PM on September 30 [6 favorites]


And speaking of chouriço, I've just cut and seasoned a lot of them so tomorrow I can make another giant chouriço bread.

That sounds like the Portuguese answer to the Italian-American ansonia bread, or lard bread, a baked good so decadent that growing up my dad would only get it for us once a year around Christmas.
posted by Itaxpica at 10:03 PM on September 30


"decadent" is the right word, particularly after I stopped using the bread maker and went directly to use a whole kg of flour. First time taking it out of the oven I was thinking "what have I done".
posted by lmfsilva at 10:10 PM on September 30 [3 favorites]


Townsend's videos are an absolute treasure despite my being someone who not only isn't intending to do any historical reenacting but also doesn't even cook except like three days a month. I think the answer for why it all happened, unfortunately, boils down to "Youtube".
posted by Sequence at 10:48 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]


Fool hardly needed to be rediscovered. I'm pretty sure it's in the older Joy of Cooking, for heaven's sake.
posted by praemunire at 11:28 PM on September 30 [3 favorites]


Fool never went away - you can buy pots of various fruit fools in the chilled aisles of most British supermarkets. Never seen orange, I don't think. Gooseberry and rhubarb are probably the most common. I do like a fool.

@praemunire - to be fair, they do mention Hannah Glasse several times. Her The Art of Cookery dates from 1747.
posted by auntie-matter at 6:04 AM on October 1 [2 favorites]


I think fool is a common dessert in Britain, but it's one of those things like trifle that isn't as common in the US. But isn't modern British fool basically just pureed fruit mixed with whipped cream? The historical reenactment version, which was taken from Martha Washington's cookbook, involved custard.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:13 AM on October 1


Umm. The notion of Jews living side-by-side in harmony with their Muslim rulers on the Iberian peninsula is mostly fantasy. There were times when the local rulers were tolerant and inclusive, sure. There were long stretches of time where that was not the case, and hell and horror was an everyday occurrence for those not of the faithful.

Do you have quotes for this? I haven't studied medieval Iberia for a lot of time, but I have studied source material and some good secondary literature for a part of my life, and I'm pretty certain the Catholics basically conducted a genocide when they took over, while the different Muslim regimes did as they usually did until 1947: accept the other Abrahamic religions with some (sometimes harsh) conditions. Conditions that didn't prevent Jews from holding public office, or from doing business, or from owning land.
Medieval (Muslim) Portugal was not a liberal democracy, in any sense, and it would be absurd to impose modern standards on their government. But I have not before seen anyone claim that the terror of the inquisition could be relativized as you suggest.
Jews haven't ever been completely safe in Europe, and not in Muslim Iberia either, but they were a hell of a lot safer than after the Catholics took over.

(This is not about all Catholics or all Christians, but a specific trend during the reformation/counter-reformation, where some Catholics and some Lutherans persecuted Jews relentlessly)
posted by mumimor at 8:54 AM on October 1 [5 favorites]


Yes! This NYT article gives a nice overview.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:55 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


Also, if you're making Townsend upset, you are a Bad Person. It's like making Bob Ross explain that he still really believes we can all still make art together even though you became vulgar in your anger that he used "burnt orange" to make a sunset rainbow.

The only guile this guy has is in hoping you'll hit his ecommerce site up for rare ingredients and re-enactment gear, even though he always tells you how to find substitute ingredients and equipment. He is so patient and methodical, he has the delivery of a dedicated Social Studies teacher (the anti-Chef John), but the costume, the gear, the food, all perfectly period appropriate (as far we know, hence why he likes "interpreter" rather than "re-enactor.")

It's so soothing to watch him cook in the woods, and eat with a little wooden spoon he carved himself.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:20 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]



Yes! This NYT article gives a nice overview.


No it doesn't. That piece has nothing to do with history as a discipline and was written in the midst of the chaos and confusion after 9/11. It mixes up stuff that happened under Muslim and Christian rules at widely different periods of time and projects contemporary values onto medieval society.
posted by mumimor at 6:49 PM on October 1


Sooo... the massacre in Grenada didn't happen? Maimonides did not become an exile in his own land because of his family's religion? Good to know!
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:42 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


Sooo... the massacre in Grenada didn't happen? Maimonides did not become an exile in his own land because of his family's religion? Good to know!

I agree with mumimor that that article is pretty weaksauce, but even while doing its best to sweep the facts under the rug, it offhandedly grants that our treatment in Andalusia was a helluva lot better than what we got under the Christians. ("In comparison [to the latter], many societies might resemble paradise." Ya think?)
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:27 PM on October 1


I do notice that the goalposts keep moving.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:50 PM on October 2


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