PBroth-f-Sick-art - 4/14/14
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Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
A Poultry and Broth Dish for the Sick
by Magister Galefridus Peregrinus
WARNING: Please be aware that this dish contains rue, which has traditionally been used as an abortifacient.
Al-Warrāq's 10th century Baghdad cookbook contains several chapters (105 – 109) on foods that are specifically intended to benefit the sick. The chapters are arranged by ingredient (vegetarian, meat and poultry, fish, grain) type of food (stews and broths, soups), and illness (cold-related, jaundice). I have selected one of these recipes as my initial foray into these explicitly medicinal dishes, primarily because I found the combination of ingredients to be interesting and unusual.
The recipe is one of a group, all of the same type (masūs – meat cooked in vinegar) and all recommended for persons with the same illness (diarrhea). One of the interesting aspects of these recipes is that most of them call for sour liquids other than vinegar, such as verjuice (this recipe), or juices of sour pomegranate, sumac, or citron. While verjuice can be prepared from almost any unripe fruit, in this case the recipe specifies that it is to come from unripe grapes.
Another masūs for the same condition [diarrhea caused by excess in yellow bile]: Take na'na' (cultivated mint), parley, rue, fresh thyme, and nammām (cultivated oregano), and cook them with pullets, larks, partridge, or sparrows. [The liquid they are to be cooked in] is sour juice of unripe grapes (verjuice) that has been infused with parsley, mint, fresh and dried thyme [and strained]. Add to the liquid, black pepper, caraway, cumin, anise, and toasted milh andarānī (good quality translucent rock salt), God willing.
Redaction: At least one day before cooking, take 1 1/3 c. verjuice and add two sprigs each of parsley and mint, three sprigs thyme, and 1/4 t dried thyme. Let steep overnight and strain. Place two game hens or four quail in a soapstone pot, add leaves from two sprigs each of mint, parsley, rue, and oregano, plus leaves from four sprigs of thyme. Add strained verjuice, 1/2 t each fresh cracked black pepper corns, caraway seeds, and toasted rock salt, and 1/4 t each fresh ground cumin and anise. Cook on stovetop until game hens are done.
Comments and observations: Reasonably priced verjuice is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores. I have prepared the herbal infusion as long as a week and briefly as 12 hours before cooking. I grew my own fresh rue. I have prepared this dish with game hens, which are basically young, small chickens, as being similar to pullets, readily available, and reasonably priced. I have also tried the recipe with quail, which are considerably smaller than game hens and are similar to partridge. I used pink Himalayan rock salt, which I toasted by heating briefly in a small skillet. I consider this dish to be quite flavorful and pleasant, worthy of enjoyment by all, not just the sick. I intend to experiment further with cooking with verjuice, and I hope to make some from locally harvested under-ripe grapes.
Humoural analysis: While al-Warrāq does not provide a full analysis of masūs dishes, such an analysis is present in the Taqwīm al-Sihha of Ibn Butlān (entry 79). He classifies it in the same category with aspic and attributes to it the following characteristics: cold and dry, best when made with pullets, beneficial for persons with an excess of yellow bile, harmful to the nerves and to those of a melancholy temperament, harmfulness mitigated by aromatic old wine, and has the effect of cooling the blood. Finally, it is recommended for older persons with hot and moist temperaments, living in southern regions, particularly in the summer. As a side note, Ibn Butlān's narrative commentary adds, inter alia, that masūs will reduce sexual vigor. This analysis of the generic masūs is consistent with al-Warrāq's stated purpose of this specific example. Moreover, analysis of the individual components of this dish indicates that the primary ingredients – the verjuice and the pullets (or other small birds) – are the greatest contributors to the overall effect. al-Warrāq describes unripe sour grapes as cold, further stating "They control bowel movements and curb yellow bile and blood." (ch. 20). Since (among other things) diarrhea was thought to be caused by an excess of yellow bile, anything that would reduce the level of this humour would be therapeutic. Young or small birds have much the same effect (ch. 8). Pullets, grouse, and francolin are described in similar terms as being light, producing little excretions, and "not generating much heat." Larks control diarrhea, and partridges cause constipation. On the other hand, the herbs and spices seem to have been selected to partially counterbalance the effects of the other ingredients. For the most part, they (the herbs and spices) are hot and dry, and likely to cause bloating (al-Warrāq, chs. 15 and 18). While masūs is a summer dish, it balances the other foods I am presenting, both of which increase sexual vigor.
Elkhadem, H. (1990). Le Taqwīm al-Sihha (Tacuinum Sanitatis) d'Ibn Butlān: un traité médical du XIe siècle. Lovanii: Peeters.
Nasrallah, N. (2007). Annals of the Caliphs' kitchens: Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq's tenth century Baghdadi cookbook. Leiden: Brill.
Cornish game hens (2 lbs) or quail (18 oz)
Fresh and dried thyme
Fresh flat leaf parsley
Himalayan pink rock salt
Copyright 2013 by Loren Mendelsohn, 3 Morris Pl, Towaco, NJ 07082. <galefridus at optimum.net>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.