Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

Md-Cu-Islmc-Wd-rev - 1/31/09


A book review by Urtatim of "Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World: A Concise History with 174 recipes" by Lilia Zaouali.


NOTE: See also the files: Caliphs-Ktchn-rev, online-ckbks-msg, merch-cookbks-msg, fd-Mid-East-msg, ME-revel-fds-art, E-Arab-recip-art, za-atar-msg, murri-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2008 00:10:29 -0800

From: Lilinah <lilinah at earthlink.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org


At University Press Books, where they stock books from university and

museum presses, after looking the volume over, I shelled out the sheckels for:

"Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World: A Concise History with 174 recipes"

by Lilia Zaouali

University of California Press, 2007

(first published in Italian 2004).


(Let me interject here that the pronunciation of her last name is

za-wa-lee -- French often uses "ou" where we would use a "w" -- so if

you see an "ou" in between two other vowels in a word, it's likely

pronounced like a "w")


Charles Perry was disappointed that it was not a deep scholarly work.

And, indeed it is not. It is however, quite useful for the SCAdian



The book begins with a brief but informative Forward by Charles Perry.

The primary text is divided into three sections:

Part One: Cultural Background and Culinary Context

Part Two: The Medieval Tradition

Part Three: Contemporary North African Cuisine


The first sixty pages is divided into two parts, "Crossroads of the

World's Cuisines" and "Materials, Techniques, and Terminology". These

include, among other things, a brief overview of known Arabic

language culinary texts, ingredients, and cooking techniques, and

includes some useful photos of extant cookware and serving dishes,

although only a rather limited number.


Part Two consists of 143 recipes from four sources, three not yet

available in English, one only recently available - "Annals of the

Caliphs' Kitchens: Ibn Sayyar Al-warraq's Tenth-century Baghdadi

Cookbook" (Islamic History and Civilization) by Nawal Nasrallah.

Zaouali includes 24 recipes from this vast source, which i assume she

translated herself.


The other three are from the 13th century. One is "Kitab Fadalat

al-khiwan fi tayyibat al-ta'am w'al-alwan" by Ibn Razin from

al-Andalus, recently discussed on this list, from which there are 53

recipes. Another is the "Wusla ila'l-habib fi wasf al-tayyabat

wa'l-tib" from Syria, which used to come up on this list from time to

time a few years ago. Maxime Rodinson listed all its recipes (see

"Medieval Arab Cookery", Prospect Press), but only a few of the

recipes have been available in translation -- now we have 29 of them.

And the fourth source is also from the 13th C., the Egyptian "Kanz

al-fawa'id fi tanwi' al-mawa'id", which is the source of 37 recipes.


The recipes are arranged into 14 sections by type, among which is

"Bread and Broth", which is actually a section on Tharids. There is

also a section on "Pasta" with directions for making several

different kinds, and a section on "Couscous" with five recipes,

including the description of a pot for cooking it, which is rather

like the modern couscousiere. In the "Pastries and Jams" section is a

recipe for Quince Sikanjubin (from the "Kanz") - yes, quince juice

with sugar and vinegar (and some optional flavorings).


All the recipes are given in translation only, which we would expect.

Unfortunately, however, the author often substitutes her own title

for them, without including a transliteration of the original name,

which i like to see. Most recipes are introduced by a brief

paragraph, which may include history, discussion of techniques or

ingredients, or mention of a modern recipe that is related. The

recipes are not "worked out" or modernized, and so are just waiting

for us to get our "redaction" chops on them.


The source books are from several different cultures and centuries,

yet there is little analysis of them, so there's no deep

understanding of the changes in the cuisine over time. And there's

only a little discussion of the differences between Eastern and

Western Arabic cuisine.


The book ends with 31 modern North African recipes, chosen because

Zaouali thinks each is similar to a Medieval recipe in the book. Some

of the recipes are for interesting dishes i don't recall seeing in

any of my other North African cookbooks.


While not the masterwork of scholarship that "Annals of the Caliphs'

Kitchens" is, Zaouali's book also does not cost $195, but merely

$24.95. And it is definitely useful for the SCAdian cook, especially

since it includes recipes not in any other book.


Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)

the persona formerly known as Anahita


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org