I hope everyone had a nice Shavuot and Victoria Day weekend! If any major city in North American has earned a place in the springtime sun, it’s got to be Toronto. Let’s lift a glass of white wine, or perhaps a margarita, and say L’Chaim! It’s finally spring in Toronto and time for a refreshing kosher drink.
Kosher Fruits of the Vine
It’s always a little amusing when non-Jews ask me if we are “allowed” to drink.
Not only are we “allowed” this, I tell them, we even have a prayer we say every week to praise G-D for giving us the fruit of the vine. And that vine has gone beyond what they grow in Galilee and Napa. A major maker of curaçao, called Curaçao of Curaçao earned kosher certification by Star-K a few years ago. You can read a very entertaining account by the rabbi who traveled to the Caribbean to oversee and certify the process.
Curaçao is a triple sec orange liqueur made with Valencia oranges. It’s a very popular ingredient for summertime drinks like MaiTais, Blue Lagoons, and Kamikazes to name a few. (Think of drinks with little umbrellas.)
Here at Mitzuyan Kosher Catering, we will of course serve kosher wines at your event upon request. (We will work with you to get the proper licensing to serve alcoholic beverages.) We’re happy to discuss good pairings with you for your wedding, simcha, bat or bar mitzvah, or any other event you want to catered and kosher.
Curaçao’s Unusual Jewish History
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Jews escaping the Inquisition in the first half of the 1600s found quite a haven in the Caribbean, particularly the Dutch-owned island of Curaçao. The Protestant nations that claimed the island, as well as Aruba and Bonaire were happy to accept Spanish-speaking people to help with trade. In 1658, the Dutch Parliament gave citizenship to its Spanish Jewish refugees, vowing to defend them against any Spanish (and therefore, Catholic) marauders who might try to capture them.
Many of these new Dutch Jews tried their hands at farming, something they were largely banned from doing in Europe. They grew and refined sugar. The farmed coconuts, cocoa, and vanilla, and were the first on the islands to grow cantaloupes, eggplant, and watermelon. Their children branched out into trading all these goodies, and built ships and even dockyards to support the growing merchant class.
Jews built synagogues and created new customs. They put sand on the floors to remember the desert their ancestors lived in. It also was thought to prevent snakes from entering from underneath. They also placed earth from Israel on the eyes of the deceased just before burial.
The oldest synagogue in the Americas is Mikve Israel-Emmanuel, in Curaçao. It was founded in 1651.
Fix Yourself a Kosher Blue Lagoon
I love Toronto but after this winter, it’s hard to not give any Caribbean island a long look! I’m pretty sure I’m here to stay, though, so I’ll have to create a summer paradise. Let’s try this refreshing kosher drink with a couple of ounces of kosher curaçao and vodka, two ingredients that are often found together. Happily, there are lots of kosher vodkas on the market largely thanks to the Ashkenazi demand. Try this recipe for a Blue Lagoon from Curaçao of Curaçao.