Recipes Endure, across Oceans and Centuries
September 29, 2019 6:05 PM   Subscribe

!שנה טובה Genie Milgrom was raised Catholic in Cuba, but the family recipes passed down to her had a few oddities. They never mixed meat and milk. Her Spanish-born grandmother always insisted she pull off a bit of bread and throw it in the oven to burn. They used potato and corn starch where most kitchens used wheat flour. Genealogical research led her to discover that her ancestors were Converso Jews, who converted to Catholicism (often just on the surface) to avoid the Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

Recipes were one of the most important ways Conversos maintained their Jewish heritage while pretending to Christianity, and Milgrom's maternal ancestors passed down the recipes they used to keep their Jewish heritage alive while hiding as Christians. Those recipes traveled from Spain, to Portugal, to Cuba, to Miami, and now are the subject of a new book, Recipes of My 15 Grandmothers: Unique Recipes and Stories from the Times of the Crypto-Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, including fake pork chops (chuletas) to fool the local pork-police who would turn in neighbors who weren't eating pork (both the Jersusalem Post and Times of Israel include pictures of this recipe!). The recipes adapt over time as the family moves from its home in Fermoselle, Spain, to Cuba, and different ingredients are available. While her family ceased to practice Judaism some time during their years as Conversos, the recipes endured and kept that heritage alive; today, Milgrom has converted to Judaism.

New World Conversos, previously
posted by Eyebrows McGee (7 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Wow! This is very cool, thank you for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:46 PM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thank you so much for posting this; that cookbook is really going to help with my holiday shopping.

Conversos landed in many places, including Italy, New Mexico, Colorado, Cuba, and Puerto Rico; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is descended from Sephardic Jews.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:51 PM on September 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

I never knew about this, it's fascinating. Thank you!
posted by biscotti at 4:46 AM on September 30, 2019

Also in Portugal (as "New Christians"):

The Unlikely Sausage That Saved Lives
posted by chavenet at 4:47 AM on September 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

Amazing. So many layers in one story.
posted by nickyskye at 2:30 PM on October 1, 2019

Lovely, thank you for sharing! It's incredible what legacies we pass down through our families without even being entirely aware of it.

(Total side note and not at all criticism, but I think this might have possibly gotten a bit more traction if it hadn't been posted on first night of Rosh Hashanah.)
posted by eponym at 6:11 AM on October 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would love to see the recipe for the french toast pork chop.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:49 PM on October 2, 2019

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