April 6, 2010
The Sephardic Diet
Let’s review. In the ‘70s there was the eat-only-grapefruit diet. In the ‘80s, I knew a woman who followed the eat-all-the-blueberries-you want diet. “They have no calories!” she enthused. “You can eat as many as you want!” Then the cavities and fainting spells kicked in. In the early ‘90s, a few dear friends sacrificed their heart valves to Phenfen. That brings us to the current fads, those protein- or carbo-heavy diets, which duke it out for best-sellerdom and celebrity endorsements. It makes me nostalgic for blueberries.
My own take on dieting is supremely simple-minded:
Now that Passover is nearly over, you can launch your own Sephardic diet fad with my recipe from a Mimouna celebration I attended in Jerusalem in 1985. This is a North African custom celebrating the end of Passover. I was working at a youth center in a now-gentrified, then-delapidated section of the city called Musrara. As Passover wound down neighbors through their doors open and the entire night, families went from house to house indulging in groaning buffets of pre-prepared sweets, cakes, cookies and quickly fried meat rolls, called cigarim. Okay, eat enough of the last ones and you’re not on the diet, but once in a while.
The best thing I ate that night were Maamoul, date-filled cookies that helped the fig liquor stay down. My friend Joan Nathan has a terrific recipe for them. Why reinvent the wheel.