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Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World: A Concise History with 174 Recipes (California Studies in Food and Culture) Paperback – September 14, 2009


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Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World: A Concise History with 174 Recipes (California Studies in Food and Culture) + A Baghdad Cookery Book (Petits Propos Culinaires) + Apricots on the Nile: A Memoir with Recipes
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Product Details

  • Series: California Studies in Food and Culture (Book 18)
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (September 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520261747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520261747
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 6.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Engaging and informative. . . . A valuable addition to the literature on medieval Arab cuisine.”
(Gastronomica: Journal Of Food & Culture 2009-02-01)

“Provide(s) enough historical context for the reader to fully appreciate the important role that Islamic culinary history has.”
(Choice 2008-03-01)

“A remarkable book. . . . It's bright and entertaining and . . . can be enjoyed by all.”
(San Francisco Examiner 2009-10-21)

“A truly unusual book. . . Intriguing.”
(Sunday Business Post 2009-11-29)

About the Author

Lilia Zaouali was born in Tunisia and earned a Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University Sorbonne-Paris. She has taught at the University of Jussieu Paris-7 and the Sarah Lawrence American Academy. The author of numerous essays and scientific articles, Zaouali is a contributor to SLOW, among other journals.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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"Bang the casserole against the ground," an instruction from one of the recipes in Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World (p.135). (Kids, do not do this at home!)

The book was written in French, translated to Italian, and from the Italian into English, that is a long journey to take for a text dealing with medieval Islamic cookery written originally in Arabic. The book, nevertheless, generally makes a smooth read, with the exception of some instances where the reader is left puzzled whether the translation, the writer or the original Arabic texts and recipes are indeed to blame. Some things did get lost in translation, all right.

There are places where ingredients are wrongly identified and sentences not accurately construed. For instance, according to a recipe, the dish is presented by stacking chicken pieces on top of each other (p.64), whereas in reality, the recipe asks the cook to arrange the pieces (tunadhdhad) on the platter. A medieval pot called dast is inaccurately translated as a `jar.' Jam, once again, is rendered as a jar (196), whereas, in the medieval culinary lingo it is actually a platter. Pickled lemons kept in brine (musayyar), the signature condiment of the North African cuisine then and now, is erroneously rendered as `candied lemon' (p.67), or `lemon coated with salt' (p. 138). The flavor of one of the dishes in a recipe is described as "sweet and sour flavor that influences the mood of the person who eats it (p. 81)," whereas the original recipe simply suggests that the sweetness and sourness of the dish is to be determined by the eater's mizaj temperament, in modern terms, "adjust to taste." The green seeds in one of the recipes are not cardamom as rendered (p. 130), but terebinth berries.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Lilinah on January 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is not a deep scholarly work. It is however, quite useful for the historical cook and those interested in the development of Middle Eastern cuisine. It begins with a brief but informative forward by Charles Perry. Then the primary text is divided into three sections.

Part One is called "Cultural Background and Culinary Context". It is a series of connected essays divided into two parts, "Crossroads of the World's Cuisines" and "Materials, Techniques, and Terminology". These cover, 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. There is little new here for the reader already familiar with Prospect Books' excellent _Medieval Arab Cookery_ or David Waines' _In A Caliphs Kitchen_, long out of print.

Part Two, "The Medieval Tradition" consists of 143 recipes from four sources, three not yet fully translated into English, one only relatively 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 second through fourth are from the 13th century. The _Kitab Fadalat al-khiwan fi tayyibat al-ta'am w'al-alwan_ is by Ibn Razin al-Tujibi from al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), from which there are 53 recipes. The third is the _Wusla ila'l-habib fi wasf al-tayyabat wa'l-tib_ from Syria. Maxime Rodinson listed all its recipes (in _Medieval Arab Cookery_, Prospect Books), but only a few have been available in translation -- now we have 29 of them.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Delbosc on September 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
I love food history books. I've already read a fair amount about ancient Rome and medieval European cuisine, so I was happy to snap up this book about a cuisine I knew little about. Personally I come to these kinds of works as a layperson, not a scholar, so I'm interested in works that are engaging without being too dry or technical. This book was something in between a scholarly and a popular work that could have been a bit more satisfying.

The first section is a general historical background, followed by fairly literal translations of recipes from the 13th and 14th centuries, and a third section with modern recipes.

I found the beginning of the first section very dry, going into reasonable depth about people and regions I don't know - even a simple map illustrating the regions mentioned would have been helpful (I had to look up where the Maghreb and Andalusia were). It was difficult to enjoy this section as there wasn't much for me to latch onto. However it eventually flowed into more interesting and accessible topic areas, such as the relationship between Islamic, Christian and Jewish cultures, how the Koran sets out food prescriptions and the cultural context of food and dining. That's when the book really started to pick up my interest.

The first recipe section was engaging, with many recipes supported by commentary from the author. It was almost startling to see how modern some of the recipes felt, as if you would see them on a menu today. This was in stark contrast to many of the ancient Roman or medieval European recipe books I've read, where flavour combinations are so foreign and modern cuisines in those regions are so very different.
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