Barbara Haber

Schlesinger Library,
Cambridge, Massachusetts

I first met Sid in 1992 at a professional meeting that turned out to be a watershed occasion in my career, enhanced by Sid's words of encouragement. We were participating in a food conference in Spain to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first of Columbus's voyages, and my assignment was to describe the diet of Jews living in Spain around 1492. I was on a panel with two others who were to describe the Christian and Moslem diets.

As someone steeped in women's history, but also a devoted Foodie, I wanted to use the opportunity to say something important about women as well as food. I based my talk on Inquisition trials against a group of women from Toledo, Spain who were accused of going back on their conversion and reverting to Judaism, proven by the dishes the women cooked that lacked foods forbidden by Jewish dietary laws. This unexpected resource yielded actual recipes, in otherwise scarce supply because no Jewish cookbooks of the period existed. What I made of the material was that at a time when traditional community leaders had fled, women remained behind as carriers of the culture. Whether or not they were sincere in their conversion, they still could not bring themselves to eat pork, eels and shellfish, and they passed along their methods of cooking to younger members of their families.

My experiment was well-received, and I was especially honored and pleased by Sid's positive response. He was clearly the most esteemed presence at that meeting, and has continued in his role as keynote speaker at notable food conferences. (He once confessed to me—in a highly-amused way—that many of the Foodies seemed unaware of his career as an anthropologist.) He would not say "eminent" or "hugely successful career", because that is not Sid's way. He just thought it all was kind of funny, and I suspect still does.

The direction of my career changed because of the encouragement of Sid and others, and I know that he has offered such support to legions of students and friends. That's what this celebration is all about—a collective way for all of us to express our deep appreciation and affection for Sid, who has led the way for so many of us.

Adafina—Sabbath Stew, Toledo Style

(Adapted from A Drizzle of Honey by David Gitlitz)

1/2 cup dry white beans
1/2 cup dry chickpeas
2 medium onions
1/2 pounds beef or lamb in 1-inch cubes 2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon saffron
1/2 cup water
Spice Mixture:
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)

  1. Cover beans and chickpeas with cold water and soak 4 hours. Drain.
  2. Quarter one onion. Place meat, garlic, quartered onion and just enough water to cover in a medium to large pot. Simmer covered 1 hour.
  3. Add beans, chickpeas, saffron, and water (just enough to reach top of mixture). Cover and simmer 3 hours in a 300 degree oven..
  4. In small bowl, combine spice mixture.
  5. Slice one onion. Heat oil in fry pan and fry spice mixture for w minutes. Add sliced onion and fry 4 minutes more.
  6. Add fried spices and onion to the meat and beans. Stir to combine. Cook in 300 oven, covered, for from 11/2 to 8 hours more, stirring now and then so that stew does not stick to pan. Meat will shred apart and the stew will be golden brown.
  7. Sprinkle with cinnamon when serving, if desired.