[Sca-cooks] olive oil too expensive to be used as a cooking oil?

Sayyeda al-Kaslaania samia at idlelion.net
Mon Jan 30 02:03:53 PST 2012

Here's the original quote, all typos mine:

p 154
"In the modern world, the cuisine of the Mediterranean and the Middle 
East is closely associated with olive oil. For the medieval Muslims of 
Baghdad, olive oil was a thing generally too costly for everyday use as 
a cooking oil. It was instead most often reserved as a condiment to be 
sprinkled on dishes, either as a final step in cooking, or at the table. 
By comparison, we find the /Manuscrito anonimo/, that the Muslim chefs 
of al-Andalus and the Maghreb preferred olive oil above all other fats, 
to the point that their Christian neighbors to the north in more 
temperate parts of Spain adopted it, even though they had no olive trees 
of their own."

"Much more common for cooking in Baghdad than olive oil, even in the 
kitchens of the caliph, would have been alya, the fat rendered out of 
the tail of a plump sheep. Many, if not most of the recipes in 
al-Baghdadi's /Kitab al-tabikb/ begin with instructions to render out 
tail fat in a hot pan, fat which is then used to brown meat for stewing, 
or as the medium for frying kubabs. In other, later Arabic cookery 
books, much space us give over to methods of clarifying, enriching, 
coloring and perfuming this staple, all things which would have made 
this humble fat suitable for even the most refined dishes. Sesame oil 
was also widely employed, but although used by Muslims, and cited by 
al-Baghdadi as suitable for deep frying, it was much more closely 
associated with Jews, to the point that many claimed you could tell a 
Jewish household from the street simply by the way it smelled of burning 
sesame oil. Of lesser importance as a cooking fat was /samn/, clarified 
butter, which appears in a number of contexts, especially as a base 
ingredient for pastries and breads, and aged as a condiment, valued for 
its rancidity. "


Miller, H.D., "The Pleasures of Consumption: The Birth of Medieval 
Islamic Cuisine." in _Food: the History of Taste_. Edited by Paul H. 
Freedman. Series: California Studies in Food and Culture. U of 
California Press, 2007.Pp. 135-162.

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list