[Sca-cooks] food(ography)

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Mon Jun 28 13:59:00 PDT 2010

Johnnae wrote:
>But I would argue that the clay tablets do not make up a "cookbook".
>They may be surviving recipes from an ancient cuisine but they are not
>books nor were they assembled into books. They are the barest of
>'receipts' intended to keep track of accounts and items and what was to
>be done with foodstuffs. They were assembled into a book (possibly a
>"cookbook") only in the late 20th century.

Sets of clay tablets were the equivalent of books in much of the 
Ancient Middle East. So i would not dismiss them on that basis alone.

However, as i implied, but did not state explicitly, when i said 
"...well, short collections of recipes", the Akkadian tablets were 
apparently not all written at the same time, so this point can be 
debated. Perhaps they were the clay equivalents of pamphlets or 
notebooks. However, a number of what i would call cookbooks that i 
purchased while living in Indonesia were not more than pamphlets.

I agree with you that these several sources were assembled into one 
single book by Bottero.

>Apicius' thoughts on food and eating with his instructions exists
>in at least a manuscript that has survived for centuries. Whether it
>is a cookbook or a work of gastronomy depends I suppose on
>if one is reading it and appreciating it as a historical or literary or
>classical document or if one is trying to cook from it.

The book known as Apicius appears to be, like many other early 
cookbooks, an assemblage of recipes from various sources now lost to 
us. Scholars generally believe it was not written or collected by the 
(in)famous gourmet/gourmand Apicius.

Granted, the recipes are more detailed than the Akkadian ones. But 
some of use other cookbook-like writings that are quite limited in 
their details, such as the Ain-i Akbari and some Arabic recipes that 
list ingredients with minimal information on how to prepare them.

Some European works are also quite terse, such as many recipes in 
"Enseignements qui enseingnent a apareillier toutes manieres de 
which has some somewhat detailed recipes and some only a few words long.

I suspect part of the issue is how we use the word "cookbook".

BOOK: to me a book does not have to be in codex form (which our 
modern books are). Collections of clay tablets, rolls of papyrus, 
strung together palm leaves (known as lontar), organized unbound 
sheets of paper, digital formats, etc. work for me as well as codices.

COOKBOOK: I will accept collections in any of the above forms (and 
others) as serving the function of a cookbook which are composed 
largely of name of dishes (or short descriptive phrases) attached to 
lists of their ingredients with at least some hints at preparation.

I suspect that those of us gathered here may use differing definitions...
Someone sometimes called Urtatim

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