Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pesach, Madeleines, Objective Correlatives and Jerusalem the Golden

My Internet friends Bobfrom and TheNew, whom I met this year and for whom I have developed much respect and even some virtual affection, have each posted a Pesach post.

Bob provided the music, and New Centrist thoughtfully supplied some gravitas in the form of a discussion about Amalek and the Four brothers.

It seems that it remains for me to bring the dessert.

Holidays are always a time for me to get in touch with my roots, with my Ladino culture. It is through certain memories, invoked by certain tastes and smells in certain atmospheric conditions, that we can be aroused from our post modern torpor to emotional moments in our past which can never be recovered, only remembered with sweet pain and resignation.

It was Proust who described how eating a madeleine, with hot tea, triggerred very rich memory of his childhood.

And TS Eliot explained it in his idea of the objective correlative:

The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an "objective correlative"; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.

So what set of objects, what situation, what chain of events make me remember my childhood Seders at my grandmother's?

It's the Spring season of the Passover holiday:

For, behold, the winter is past.
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The time of the singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
...The vines are in blossom.
They give forth their fragrance.

It's the sight of the Matza packages neatly stacked on the kitchen counter, bottles of sweet kosher wine or grape juice, the aroma of eggs being boiled in onion skins and water (to make them brown), the pile of chopped spinach for the mandatory fritada.

Sephardic Jews use a lot of spinach and eggplant in their holiday cooking. When baked in the over, they give off a certain aroma which mixed with the smell of the cooking eggs, fill the house with a very distinctive holiday aroma.

For tonight I'm going to prepare the following dessert, very little known outside the Sephardic community. It was my favourite and my grandmama was an expert in making it.

(I was my grandmother's first granddaughter and she played a role in my upbringing. She never mastered the Hebrew language, though she could speak a few other languages fluently. She used to speak to me in Ladino and I answered her in Hebrew. Sometimes she asked me to teach her the lyrics of songs she loved, so she could sing them properly. One such song was "Jerusalem the golden". I wrote it for her on a piece of cardboard, and she hung it on her kitchen wall, so that she could sing the song while washing dishes. She was a great grandmother and a truly beautiful woman, with sea green eyes, which my daughter whom I named after her, inherited. )

Here is the recipe, then, for

Mustachudos (flourless cookies)


3/4 cup coarsely ground almonds

3 1/4 cups coarsely ground walnuts & pecans (combined)

2 large eggs, beaten

1/4 cup sugar

2 tbsp orange marmalade (or orange-flavoured syrup)

1/4 tsp ground cloves

3/4 tsp cinnamon


Mix all ingredients. If consistency is too sticky or crumbly, you can add a little syrop or egg.

With wet hands, pull out 1" balls and shape into triangles or crescents.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Cool and then remove. You can sprinkle powdered sugar if desired.

Chag Sameach and Pesach Cachere!


At 8:19 AM EDT, Blogger bob said...

A late gut yontif! Hope you had a good one Noga



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