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|Mazel Tov... Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber|
|Inside Mazel Tov. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber|
|In the Ariel Cafe, Krakow. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber|
|Judaica for sale in Mazel Tov. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber|
|Me in Mazel Tov cafe. Photo: Dan Monterescu|
Honey-nut sweets served on bay leaves. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber
Entering Bevagna. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber
It was followed by a spicy lentil soup and then the main course: heaping platters of crisp, twice-roasted goose with garlic served with a warm salad of baked onions in sweet and sour sauce. The meal was rounded out by a form of spiced white wine called ippocrasso and honey-nut sweets served on fresh bay leaves.
"We love medieval cooking," said Alfredo Properzi, one of the dinner organizers. Properzi, a local doctor, belongs to a civic association that fosters study and re-enactment of life in the Middle Ages. The recipes for the dinner, he said, came from cookbooks of the period.
"One of the big differences was the spices that they used -- much more than today," he said. "Also, medieval cooks liked to use various spices to color food as well as season it.
Ariel Toaff and a "medieval" waitress. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber
"The dinner organizers asked me what would be a typical dish for the menu, and I immediately told them goose because goose was, so to speak, the Jewish pig," he said. "It had the same function for the Jewish table as the pig did for non-Jews. Every part of the animal was used, including for goose salami, goose sausage and goose ‘ham,’ and foie gras was also a Jewish specialty."
Like today, he said, Jews in medieval times generally ate what the non-Jewish population did, adapting local recipes to the rules of kashrut.
"Biancomangiare was also made sweet with milk, pine nuts, almonds and raisins," he said. "But if it was served with a meat dish, the Jews would substitute almond milk for dairy milk."
Also like today, certain dishes became Italian Jewish favorites.
"Lentils were typically Jewish, and lentil soup was commonly eaten in the 14th and 15th centuries," Toaff said. "Being round, they symbolized the cycle of life. Another typical Jewish cooking style was sweet and sour, like the baked onion salad."
Abramo owned banks in three towns, as well as a mansion, investment properties, farmland and many other holdings. But after his death in 1484, the family suffered a series of tragic setbacks, including deaths, bank failures and even a trumped-up claim by a young Bevagna boy that the family had lured him to their home and crucified him over Easter in 1485. Though apparently linked to a default on a loan to the Abramo bank by the boy’s mother, the allegations led to the banishment of several Abramo family members.
|All photos © Ruth Ellen Gruber|
|Sarajevo Haggadah in bank vault, 2001. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber|
He called the decision “tragic,” but said he did not fear for the Sarajevo Haggadah, which, he said would be kept in a safe place.
The haggadah, handwritten in Spain in the 14th century and brought to Sarajevo after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, has been owned by the museum since 1894.
During the Bosnian war in the 1990s, the lavishly illustrated, 109-page book became a symbol of the shattered dream of multi-ethnic harmony in Bosnia. After the war ended in 1995, the U.N. Mission, along with the Bosnian Jewish Community, the Joint Distribution Committee, and the Yad Hanadiv and Wolfenson Foundations, facilitated a $150,000 project to restore the Haggadah and prepare a secure, new, climate-controlled room in which to put it on display.
This was opened with a gala ceremony in December 2002. But Finci told JTA that, in recent years, the actual Haggadah was only displayed on four days a year – all the rest of the time a facsimile was shown.
The National Gallery closed to the public last September. It had been without a director and chief financial officer since May. The Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, also in Sarajevo, was forced to shut its doors on 4 January after running out of money for maintenance and heating. Staff at both institutions have worked without pay since the respective closures.
The National and University Library, which has had no heating since early January, is next on the list of anticipated closures. [...]
The current crisis is a result of national elections held in 2010, which failed to create a coalition with a parliamentary majority. Without a functioning government, there was no funding for cultural institutions last year.
Museum administrators in Sarajevo say that grants from the new government, formed this February, will not solve the structural problem affecting the institutions. They believe that the institutions need to be funded at a national level if they are to operate effectively in the future. They also want a national cultural ministry to be created.
|Jewish themed ceramic souvenirs at a shop in the medieval Jewish quarter of Trani, Italy. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber|