Tag Archives: Memories

Minas, Meginas, and Maienas: The Quintessential Sephardic Dish?


Mina de Maza with Cheese

Through my Passover research I came across the concept of a layered matzah pie that is very popular in the Sephardic communities of Turkey and parts of Greece, but not something that I was not at all familiar with in the Syrian community. The filling layered in-between softened pieces of matzah vary from beef and lamb, to spinach or just cheese, and all are baked into delicious pies resembling a lasagna. Interestingly enough the name for this type of layered pie varies. In the community cookbook by the Sephardi Ladies of Zimbabwe I came across Megina de Karne, and while interviewing Greek and Turkish Jews, I learned about Mina de Maza (see photo at left) and Mina de Carne. An Italian version called Matzah Scacchi has a very different name but the concept of layering a meat filling in-between matzah then baking it appears to be a Sephardic influence. Although by name the Algerian Megina indicates similar roots, it is more of a large frittata-like omelet consisting of many eggs, ground beef, and potatoes (I wonder if the combination of many eggs mixed with meat and baked into a pie is the part that was carried over in the name?) The closest dish that I can compare to is the Greek Spanikopita which uses phyllo dough with a traditional filling of spinach and cheese.

Does anyone know if any of these words (mina, megina, maiena, meyina)
derive from Spanish, Ladino, Turkish, Greek, or Arabic?

My Passover blog is finally up and running!

I have to be honest and say that for a full two years I have been wanting to write a blog that had something to do with my love for food. But what specifically? Every day on my to-do list was written “Write Blog!”, but having to take care of two small children full time has made starting anything new quite difficult. A few months ago I started to think about the blog again more seriously, and then the topic came to me — why not write a blog to match the other project on my list: “Finish Passover Cookbook!”? And so here I am, posting my first entry in a blog ever about Sephardic Passover food, traditions, and memories. For now I only have a couple of hours a day (usually during my kids’ naptime!) to do everything else that needs to get done (emails, laundry, dinner, cleaning, work stuff…), but I will do my best to keep to my blog as regularly as possible.

Why a cookbook, and now blog dedicated solely to a Sephardic/Middle Eastern Passover?
Just as Thanksgiving is the most popular holiday enjoyed in the United States by Americans of all backgrounds (a billion-dollar industry with thousands of cookbooks around one food holiday alone!), Passover is the most popular and loved of all holidays in the Jewish calendar celebrated by Jews from all streams of Judaism. While most Jewish holidays have special foods associated with their celebration,
the commandment to eat special foods (such as the unleavened “cracker-bread” called matzah) or reject others (such as basic leavened bread), or consume symbolic foods as part of the seder meal (such as sweet charoset representing the freedom of our enslaved ancestors), gives food a central role in the holiday’s observance. Passover is also unique in that the holiday service takes place with family and friends of all generations sitting around a big table (or two) at home, as opposed to observing the holiday in a synagogue. As a result, seder customs and menus have become more elaborate and adventurous over the last ten years, with many families looking for new and alternative ways to weave in their old family traditions with more exotic and creative ones. For all of these reasons and more I felt it was necessary to not only write a cookbook that gathered all of the many delicious and exotic Sephardic Passover recipes from all over the world, but one that served as a reference-guidebook for the various traditions that went along with them as well. Most importantly, I wanted a book that preserved these traditions and special memories that are being lost with every generation.

My decision to now write a blog that is dedicated to Middle Eastern/Sephardic Passover dishes, customs, traditions, and memories is to motivate me to continue and complete my Passover cookbook.
I also need a platform to connect with others who may want to comment on what I have written, or even contribute recipes and their own memories and rituals associated with the holiday. It is my hope that through this blog I will bring together and preserve various Passover dishes with their stories that are in danger of being lost over the generations. It is also my hope that I will be inspired to create new traditions and recipes based on what I learn about in my virtual travels through time, country,
and community.

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