Stella’s Sephardic Table, with Stella Cohen
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: What ingredients from the local cuisine did the Sephardic Jewish community in Zimbabwe incorporate into their cooking?
Following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, Judeo-Spanish communities spread to new shores, bringing with them their unique cuisine and traditions. One of the more influential of these Judeo-Spanish communities was established during the height of the Ottoman Empire on the island of Rhodes. Before long, the island became known as La Chica Yerushalayim (Little Jerusalem), and the community became a lively center of Sephardic Jewish creativity with its own distinctive cuisine and customs.
Because of a new wave of political turmoil in the early 20th century, many Sephardic Jews left Rhodes, migrating to many countries, including Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, where Stella Cohen was born. Deeply inspired by her roots and constantly immersed in its traditions, this artist and lover of Sephardic cuisine has set out to record the legacy of this world. In 1986, she co-authored the spiral-bound cookbook Sephardic Cuisine, which was independently published under the auspices of the Sephardic community of Zimbabwe.
Since it was first published in 2012, her new cookbook, Stella’s Sephardic Table, has become an international success. It has won five international awards including the 2012 Gourmand World Cookbook awards for Best Mediterranean Cuisine and Best Jewish Cuisine.
Aside from the healthy, flavorful, easy-to-follow recipes, the book includes personal anecdotes and Ladino sayings, with both literal translations and their equivalent in English. The recipes include over 250 easy-to-follow illustrations, and there are also more than 230 magnificent photographs of the finished products, all by award-winning photographer Marc Hoberman.
Stella presented the book at Centro Sefarad-Israel in Madrid, and spoke with us about the traditional food of the Jewish communities of Rhodes and Zimbabwe.