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"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life." -- Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés of José Andrés ThinkFoodGroup, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019

"Trust me everyone, I have traveled with this man, if Gerry Dawes tells you to eat somewhere it's like Bourdain, believe it!!" - - Chef Mark Kiffin, The Compound Restaurant, Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“Spain wouldn’t be as known to Americans without the stories Gerry tells and writes.” - - Superstar Catalan Chef Ferran Adrià, elBulli

"But, for Gerry, Spain is more than just the Adriàs and (Juan Mari and Elena) Arzaks. He has connected with all manner of people working at every level and in every corner of Spain. I’m always amazed at this reach. You can step into a restaurant in the smallest town in Spain, and it turns out they know Gerry somehow. I remember one rainy night in Madrid during the 2003 Madrid Fusión congress. I wanted to go to my favorite place for patatas bravas, the ultimate tapa. But Gerry had another place in mind, and I didn’t know about it. But Gerry is always right. The potatoes at his place were amazing.” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019

"Gerry Dawes loves Spain, and he loves Spanish wines. And the man knows whereof he speaks. The country bestowed upon him its prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomia (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003, and here’s what James A. Michener said about him in Iberia: SpanishTravels and Reflections: “In his nearly thirty years of wandering the back roads of Spain, Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia … His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth … ” I first reached out to Dawes when I was planning a culinary journey to Barcelona, Rioja, and the Basque region of Spain, in 2011. I found his website and began reading, and have been learning from him ever since. Then, when I was preparing to stage at Arzak, in 2012, Dawes offered me some sound advice: learn Basque. He is opinionated – “You must decide whether you love wine or carpentry. If you want wood in your wine, suck on a toothpick as you drink your vino.” – he lives life with passion, and he respects wine and the men and woman who make it. Here’s to Gerry!" - - The Original Drinker: Spanish Wine Master Loves a $15.99 Rosado, Hates Wood and Always Avoids Wine Bars, James Brock, Paper City, papercitymag.com


Food Arts Silver Spoon Award to Gerry Dawes


 Premio Nacional de Gastronomía - - James Beard Foundation Nomination (Best Wine Writing)
Premio Periodistíco Cava

Gerry Dawes's Article Medieval Riches of El Cid's City (About Burgos, Spain)
Front Page, The New York Times Sunday Travel Section

 About Blog Author Gerry Dawes, Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award)


4/18/2019

Sephardic Spain: Update on My Search for Jewish Historical Sites in Spain Part III of III Lorca's (Murcia) Jewish Village & Synagogue in a Castle and the Most Incredible Holy Week Processions Ever



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Gerry Dawes with Jewish figure sounding the shofar at Archaeological Museum of Lorca, Lorca (Murcia).


Lorca (Murcia)

When I picked up my partner, Kay, at Alicante airport, she was running late from a delayed flight from New York that caused her to miss her connection in Madrid, and we headed for Cartagena on Saturday, April 13, the day before Palm Sunday, I had no idea what we were going to find a few days down the road.


When we arrived at Hotel Los Habaneros in Cartagena, one of the few major towns in Spain to which I had never been, she showed me article from the magazine she picked up on Air Nostrum, the regional airline that flies from Madrid to such places as Alicante and Valencia.  It was a article about Holy Week in an outback town called Lorca, a place I may have only passed through once, if that, years ago and a town that was not on my radar and not on our agenda for the trip we had planned for Semana Santa, Holy Week.  

We were going to get acquainted with historic Roman Cartagena, a town with one of the most beautifully protected harbors in the Mediterranean, then we were going to Almeria, where I had for years been promising her lunch on the beach at Cabo de Gata.  Then we were going to the villages of the Alpurjarras, south from Granada, where my one-time Spain literary hero, whom I would subsequently know and visit (with letters of introduction from both the great doyenne of bullfight aficionadas Alice Hall and theater legend Kenneth Tynan), have dinner with and have to my home for dinner, Gerald Brenan.  Brenan wrote South From Granada about his life in the 1920s in the isolated Sierra Nevada mountain village of Yegen.  His book and others, The Face of Spain and Literature of the Spanish People became classic and were a great inspiration to me, but other than a couple of minor forays, I had done no in-depth exploring of the villages he wrote about so many years ago.

So, first off, not only would Lorca not be on my radar, I had no plans to go there, but with bad weather forecast and the prospect of making a trip to Granada later this Fall, which would allow us to visit the Alpujarras, coupled with the sight in that airline magazine of Roman chariots racing down the streets of Lorca during Holy Week, brought about a change in plans, so when Kay did some research on hotels in Lorca, found only the Parador, quite expensive at that, available, we decided to change our plans and go to Lorca for Holy Thursday.  It was a remarkable twist of events that lead us to the most incredible Semana Santa spectacle I have ever seen and ironically it would also lead me to a Jewish village that I had no idea existed,  inside a castle and on grounds of a Parador, no less.




 The discovery of Lorca’s Jewish village began in 2002, ironically when excavations were begun to build the new Parador de Turismo on whose grounds the village, synagogue and museum are located.  Jews lived for two centuries with the protection of the Kings of Castile and within the protective confines of the castle above Lorca, which was a Castilian frontier bastion against the Moorish taifas and the Moorish bastion of Granada.  The Jews were fluent in Arabic and helped negociant Christian and Moorish prisoner releases and ransom payments.  They also engaged in agriculture and the raising of livestock, were merchants and craftsmen.   


This Jewish village was on the Eastern side of the fortress on a terraced hillside.  To date, 18 houses have been excavated with their walls, alcoves, benches, kitchens and cupboards.  Many artifacts have also been recovered, including pottery, mezuzahs, menorahs (including some that were eight small pottery oil lamps, with a ninth, large one at the end) and more than 2,000 pieces of glass from the the candlelight glass lamps that were suspended from the ceiling and illuminated the synagogue were discovered.  One house was even found to have a domestic bathroom.


The synagogue in this Jewish village at Lorca’s Fortaleza del Sol  is particularly important, partly because it is the only known synagogue recovered in Spain that had never been converted into a Christian church.  Part of the original walls with the layout of the building, including the entranceway for men and their prayer benches, have been preserved in their original state.  Also uncovered were pieces of plasterwork with intricate designs and colored ceramics tiles.  The area above the main hall where women worshiped has been reconstructed with a wooden screen that allowed them to see, but kept them unseen by the men in the congregation (since this area is small, there is some doubt as to whether women worshipped at this synagogue at the same time as men).  The excavators also uncovered the aron kodesh (“holy ark”), the Sephardim called the ark,  the holiest place in the synagogue--where the Torah Scrolls are kept--the heichal (“chamber”).  They also uncovered the foundations of a raised stone podium the bema, or bima,  in ancient Greece.  This podium, using for reading the Torah during the services, is known a bimah in synagogues.


Some of the glass lamps that archaeologists found are apparently unique in the world, since they are the only such lamps that were used to illuminate a Medieval synagogue.  More than 20 of these lamps have been reconstructed with some of the fragments of the original glass and are now displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Lorca.  



 Kay Balun at the Museo Arquelogico de Lorca with some of the re-constructed glass latterns found in the synagogue at the unearthed Jewish village at the Forteleza del Sol castle on the grounds of the Parador de Turismo de Lorca.

Re-constructed glass lattern found in the synagogue at the unearthed Jewish village at the Forteleza del Sol castle on the grounds of the Parador de Turismo de Lorca.

Re-constructed glass lattern found in the synagogue at the unearthed Jewish village at the Forteleza del Sol castle on the grounds of the Parador de Turismo de Lorca.

Also found were the fragments of pottery that were part of the horizontal Hannukah lamp menorahs, which were eight smaller oil lamps and one larger shammash lamp used to light the others at the end .  The lamps  were a part of their pottery platform and all glazed in green (a similar style of menorah, done in white ceramics with hand-painted designs was found in a Jewish excavation in the provincial capital of Teruel, some 430 kms. to the north in Aragón.)  Both the Lorca and Teruel menorahs had to be almost completely re-built, since only fragments were found.  In December of 2012, the first lighting of the candles of Hanukah in more 500 years took place in the ancient synagogue of Lorca.  Now, the Hanukah candle lighting ceremony is an annual event at the synagogue. 


Depiction of lighting of the Lorcan style ceramics Menorah at the Museo Arquelogico de Lorca.  Now, the Hanukah candle lighting ceremony is an annual event at the synagogue in Lorca.

We were again reminded of the Jewish heritage of Lorca during the incredible Semana Santa processions, when we saw the character representing King Solomon draped with one of the superbly embroidered, ornate robes that Lorca’s processions are famous for adorned with a large star of David.  And there is also an appearance by the Queen of Sheba and her retinue. And, as a part of another procession, several men carry a golden ark of the covenant (calling Indiana Jones!).  Lorca’s  Holy Week celebrations are mind-blowing.  The out Hollywood Hollywood and, with the racing Roman chariots with their haughty drivers, including several striking young women, sometimes we thought we were in the middle of a re-enactment of Ben-Hur, Spartacus or King Solomon’s mines.
King Solomon's Cape (from 1934), worn during the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon  Holy Week processions, Museo de Bordados Paso Blanco, Lorca (Murcia).

Part of the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon Procession, Holy Week, Lorca (Murcia).
This photo courtesy Protocol Bloggers Point.

Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon Procession, Holy Week, Lorca (Murcia).  Photo by Gerry Dawes.

 Festival of Contemporary Jewish Culture takes place in Lorca in September.

More on Sephardic Spain:



4/01/2019 Sephardic Spain: Update on My Search for Jewish Historical Sites in Spain Part I of III Return to Ribadavia (Galicia) & La Tafona de Herminia's Sephardic Recipe Pastries 


  


  


  


 

 
* * * * *
  Shall deeds of Caesar or Napoleon ring
More true than Don Quixote's vapouring?
Hath winged Pegasus more nobly trod
Than Rocinante stumbling up to God?
 
Poem by Archer M. Huntington inscribed under the Don Quixote on his horse Rocinante bas-relief sculpture by his wife, Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington,
in the courtyard of the Hispanic Society of America’s incredible museum at 613 W. 155th Street, New York City.
 _______________________________________________________________________________________
 Gastronomy Blogs


About Gerry Dawes

My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life." -- Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019

   

Gerry Dawes's Spain selected as 
#38/50 Top Gastronomy Blogs


Gerry Dawes is the Producer and Program Host of Gerry Dawes & Friends, a weekly radio progam on Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York (streaming live and archived at www.pawlingpublicradio.org and at www.beatofthevalley.com.)

Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

Photo by Hernan Ronnie Rodriguez, JBF Awards 2014.


". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

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