[Sca-cooks] Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens-- a Review

Johnna Holloway johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu
Thu Jan 10 10:41:50 PST 2008

My copy has arrived and I have been very pleasantly immersed in
another time and place. It really is a marvelous book and I am so 
impressed that I have already
written the following up.




*Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens *

*Ibn Sayya-r al-Warra-q's Tenth-Century Baghdadi Cookbook*

English Translation with Introduction and Glossary by Nawal Nasrallah

Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007 xii, 876 pp., 32 pp of color plates.

ISBN (13): 978 90 04 15867 2 * ISBN-10:*90 04 15867 7

Massive and impressive and marvelous are some of the adjectives that 
come to mind when attempting to describe this book. For the first time 
we can hold in our hands an English translation of the complete text of 
the /Kitab al – Tabikh/ or (Book of Dishes or Book of Cookery) a cookery 
book by Ibn Sayya-r al-Warra-q. This means that 600 plus recipes dating 
from the tenth century are now available. This edition is drawn from and 
cross-checked through the three surviving manuscripts which are located 
in England, Helsinki, and Istanbul.

In translation, the work begins on page 65 of this volume and extends 
through page 519. This results in 455 pages of recipes for dishes 
ranging from stews, cold and hot poultry dishes, dips and sauces, boiled 
dishes, porridges, vegetables, fried dishes, roasted kid and other 
meats, puddings, pastries, confections, and beverages. The text also 
includes discussions of the utensils needed, the spices, foods for the 
elderly and very young, the humors, numerous food poems, manners and 
decorum. Footnotes abound to guide the reader and point out differences 
between the texts.

The editor and translator Nawal Nasrallah includes a comprehensive 
introduction, glossary of Arabic to English and English to Arabic terms, 
an appendix of important people and places mentioned in the text, and 
works cited. A full range of five sub-divided indexes, including an 
ingredients index and a separate index for prepared foods and drinks, 
compliments the text. The medical terms, recipes, and advice are in yet 
another index.

The only drawback is the price. The work is being sold at € 139.00 / US$ 
195.00. I can report that it seems well worth the cost. For those of us 
seriously interested in food and culinary history, this is a volume to 
treasure and honor with a place on our shelves.
In her /Preface/, the editor writes that she was most concerned with 
accuracy and readability. She seems to have accomplished her aims in 
this fascinating volume about “this most interesting book.”

Unsure? Take a look at the actual book. Go to 
http://www.brill.nl/product_id24049.htm and click on the link to look at 
the book through Google book search.

SCA Cooks' Note: Can you cook a feast from is provided here? I think the 
answer will be a resounding yes. I suspect that the volume (if enough 
people can scrape together the funds to buy it) will be used by many 
cooks who are interested in preparing Middle Eastern fare and feasts. I 
would suggest that owners keep the volume out of the actual kitchen and 
off any countertops. Xerox your chosen recipes and take those to the 
kitchen. It would be a tragedy to splatter the actual volume. With some 
work, testing of versions, adapting to our ingredients and kitchens, I 
predict that the recipes are going to be able to be adapted and used in 
the SCA.

Review by Johnnae llyn Lewis, CE

Copyright//JK Holloway. 10 January 2008

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