[Sca-cooks] Indian dinner at Pennsic?

Lilinah lilinah at earthlink.net
Tue Jun 19 10:02:23 PDT 2007

Here's what i've found so far for SCA-period Indian cookbooks, in 
chronological order. Clearly there's more written about food in 
Indian texts, but it's not an area i've been researching, so i 
haven't collected a list of sources.


(1.) late 15th-early 16th C. Persian, Moghul, and Indian

The Ni'matna'ma Manuscript of the Sultans of Mandu: The Sultan's Book 
of Delights
translated by Norah M. Titley
Abingdon, Oxon, UK: 2005
ISBN 0-415-35059-X

We've discussed the Ni'matna'ma on this list a number of times since 
the publication if Titley's translation about 1-1/2 years ago.

The Ni'matna'ma is a late 15th and early 16th C. Moghul recipe and 
medicinal book, written in Urdu.

It is a unique book, in the TRUE sense of the word - there is only 
one manuscript and no copies in existence, and it is in the Oriental 
and India Office Collections of the British Library (BL. Persian 
149). The book was compiled between 1495 and 1505. It contains 
recipes for food, betel, medicinals, aphrodisiacs, perfumes, and 
more, written for Ghiyath Shahi, Sultan of Mandu (now Madhya 
Pradesh), from 1469-1500, and continued by his successor, his son 
Nasir Shah. It reflects Moghul culture that was highly influenced by 

It was illustrated with fifty miniatures, the first few painted in a 
distinctive Shiraz (Southern Iranian) style by imported Persian 
artists, but increasingly the later illustrations show the indigenous 
styles of book painting from Central and Western India.

Titley's scholarly publication includes a complete translation with 
notes and a complete reproduction of the original book in 
photographic plates. Because facsimile and the color plates, it costs 
over $100 US, so i recommend ILL'ing it, too. It is fun to read - 
although most of the aphrodisiacs are for males.

I hesitate to bring my copy to Pennsic. Perhaps there's some time in 
the next month and a half when i could show you my copy.


(2.) Late 16th C. Persian, Moghul, and Indian

Ain-i Akbari
part of the Akbarnamah
by Shaikh Abu al-Fazl ibn Mubarak
circa 1590

Ain-i Akbari, the third volume of the Akbarnamah, was written by 
Shaikh Abu al-Fazl ibn Mubarak, who was Akbar's minister and friend. 
It was written in Persian. This volume in particular, is an account 
of Mughal India, especially Akbar's court, in the late 16th Century. 
It contains information regarding Akbar's reign. Apparently it isn't 
always completely accurate, but it helps in understanding of its 
time. It catalogues facts for which, in modern times, we would turn 
to administration reports, statistical compilations, or gazetteers. 
It is essentially the Administration Report and Statistical Return of 
his government in about 1590 CE.

Bewsides a section with recipes, there are other sections on 
foodstuffs, for example listing foods and fresh produce available for 
sale in marketplaces and their appropriate prices. It's clear they 
were being eaten, although since some of these foods are not included 
in the recipes, we don't exactly know what to do with them,

The translation into English by H. Blochmann 1873, and completed by 
Colonel H. S. Jarrett in 1907, has been made available on-line by The 
Packard Humanities Institute. Here's the index for Volume 1 (of 3) of 
the Ain-i Akbari, which has the section with recipes, as well as 
other sections that have food info...


(3.) Early 17th C. Moghul

Nuskha-e-Shahjahani: Pulaos from the Royal Kitchen of Shah Jahan
translated by Salma Husain
Rupa & Co., New Delhi: 2004
ISBN 81-7167-989-7

Shah Jahan ruled from 1628-1658, so if the manuscript is from his 
reign, it is somewhat out of period. Unfortunately this modern 
publication is frustrating from a scholarly point of view. The 
author's scantily historical intro raises more questions than it 
answers. While Husain says she has translated the recipes into 
English from the original Persian language manuscript, she never 
mentions the provenance or even date of the original manuscript, nor 
does she say where this manuscript currently is. Thus one cannot 
verify her claims.

The modern publication includes only 70 rice-based savory and sweet 
recipes, merely a selection from the original cookbook. There are no 
purely vegetable or fruit recipes. It has pulaos, quboolis, and 
kichdis - which are all what we modern folks would consider "main 
dishes", as well as a couple rice based sweet dishes, one which 
interestingly show up in late 15th C. and 16th C. Ottoman feasts.

The recipes are fairly detailed, and at first i thought the author 
had modernized them. But i was reading some Indian boards on the net 
and it became clear from comments posted there by actual modern 
Indians that these recipes really were not modern - both the 
measurements and some of the cooking methods - and the dishes were 
unfamiliar or quite different from modern versions. So i became more 
certain that these are not 20th C. recipes, and probably not late 
19th C. They might not be from a 17th C. manuscript, though, but i 
have no way to check this because of the limited information from 
Husain. And there's always the possibility that the author invented 
them herself and made them seem old.

I just wish the book had two things:
1. more information about the original manuscript;
2. more of the original manuscript's recipes (even if they aren't SCA-period)!

Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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