[Sca-cooks] Middle Eastern Food

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Fri Jan 15 15:34:40 PST 2010

On Fri, Jan 15, 2010 at 3:11 PM, Deborah Hammons 
<mistressaldyth at gmail.com>wrote:
>  What areas are seriously considered to be middle eastern?  If you were
>  asked to cook middle eastern food for a feast, would you confine yourself
>  to one area, or offer  a broad spectrum?

Assuming you mean SCA period...

Some people extend the Middle East to include places far to the 
west... such as al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), al-Maghrib (now Morocco, 
Algeria, Tunisia) both clearly not in the Middle East, but areas with 
partially Muslim, partially Arab cultures. I call these the Near 
East, they're not really east, but they are near or in Europe...

I'd prefer to use one source or related sources. I mention this 
because, for example, The Book of the Description of Familiar Food, 
copied in 14th c. Mamluk Egypt includes al Baghdadi's early 13th c. 
Book of Dishes.

The food cooked in the Ottoman courtly tradition is not much like the 
foods of the Ottoman Empire's possessions, which retained their own 
culinary traditions until outside of SCA period. Shirvani's mid-15th 
c. cookbook includes what are either Ottoman or Azeri recipes (the 
latter of which would exhibit more Persian influence), along with his 
often altered translations of al-Baghdadi. Since the Ottoman recipes 
that have survived show a cuisine that is VERY different from that of 
'Abbasid Baghdad, i wouldn't mix the recipes willy-nilly. Rather, 
examine surviving Ottoman menus to see which of al-Baghdadi's recipes 
were actually served in the Ottoman capital, and then not use the 
direct translation of the Kitab al-Tabikh, but look at Shirvani's 
versions, changed and adapted to Ottoman courtly taste.

Our knowledge of actual Persian cuisine is limited to literary 
references and trying to imagine what it was from Persian-inspired 
'Abbasid and Ottoman recipes. There are two early Safavid cookbooks 
that have survived but they have not been translated (i'm trying to 
locate my photocopy, there have been leaks in the room where i keep 
my cookbooks, and i moved some things to several, apparently 
undisclosed locations :-)

What we have the most of available to us in translation are 
Arabic-language cookbooks. But these reflect changing times and 
culinary knowledge. The cuisine of 9th and 10th c. Baghdad is not the 
same as that of 13th c. al-Andalus, 14th c. Mamluk Egypt, or 15th c. 

So it would help to know both the history of the cookbook one is 
using and of the culture within which it was written.

Urtatim [that's err-tah-TEEM]
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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