Cache of Crypto-Jewish recipes dating to Inquisition found in Miami kitchen

Chuletas, a unique Crypto-Jewish presentation for a French toast creation. This is a sweet dairy recipe that turns bread and milk into a “pork chop.” (Courtesy of Genie Milgrom)

A few years ago, Genie Milgrom came across a treasure trove of old recipes stashed away in her elderly mother’s kitchen drawers. There were hundreds of them — some in tattered notebooks, others scribbled on crumbling scraps of paper.

Upon closer examination, it became apparent to Milgrom that these were the handwritten notations of generations of women in her family. The recipes had traveled as an intact, ever-growing collection from Spain to Portugal to Cuba to the United States, reflecting not only the lives of Milgrom’s ancestors, but also the hidden heritage they had for the most part unknowingly safeguarded since the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

Milgrom, who grew up devoutly Roman Catholic in Havana and Miami, has Crypto-Jewish roots. Her ancestors were Jews who practiced Judaism in secret while outwardly living as Christians to avoid being expelled, tortured, or killed by the Church. They were Crypto-Jews until the late 17th century, and lived as Catholics from then on. Through a decade-long, intense genealogical search, Milgrom discovered that she has an unbroken Jewish maternal lineage going back 22 generations to 1405 pre-Inquisition Spain and Portugal.

Her new kosher cookbook, “Recipes of My 15 Grandmothers: Unique Recipes and Stories from the Times of the Crypto-Jews during the Spanish Inquisition,” is a tribute to those female relatives who repressed or forgot their Jewish identity over hundreds of years, but managed to preserve vestiges of it through their food.

Chuletas, a unique Crypto-Jewish presentation for a French toast creation. This is a sweet dairy recipe that turns bread and milk into a “pork chop.” (Courtesy of Genie Milgrom)

A few years ago, Genie Milgrom came across a treasure trove of old recipes stashed away in her elderly mother’s kitchen drawers. There were hundreds of them — some in tattered notebooks, others scribbled on crumbling scraps of paper.

Upon closer examination, it became apparent to Milgrom that these were the handwritten notations of generations of women in her family. The recipes had traveled as an intact, ever-growing collection from Spain to Portugal to Cuba to the United States, reflecting not only the lives of Milgrom’s ancestors, but also the hidden heritage they had for the most part unknowingly safeguarded since the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

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