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Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World

A Concise History with 174 Recipes

Lilia Zaouali (Author), M. B. DeBevoise (Translator), Charles Perry (Foreword)


Paperback, 248 pages
ISBN: 9780520261747
September 2009
$26.95, £18.95
Vinegar and sugar, dried fruit, rose water, spices from India and China, sweet wine made from raisins and dates—these are the flavors of the golden age of Arab cuisine. This book, a delightful culinary adventure that is part history and part cookbook, surveys the gastronomical art that developed at the Caliph's sumptuous palaces in ninth-and tenth-century Baghdad, drew inspiration from Persian, Greco-Roman, and Turkish cooking, and rapidly spread across the Mediterranean. In a charming narrative, Lilia Zaouali brings to life Islam's vibrant culinary heritage.

The second half of the book gathers an extensive selection of original recipes drawn from medieval culinary sources along with thirty-one contemporary recipes that evoke the flavors of the Middle Ages. Featuring dishes such as Chicken with Walnuts and Pomegranate, Beef with Pistachios, Bazergan Couscous, Lamb Stew with Fresh Apricots, Tuna and Eggplant Purée with Vinegar and Caraway, and Stuffed Dates, the book also discusses topics such as cookware, utensils, aromatic substances, and condiments, making it both an entertaining read and an informative resource for anyone who enjoys the fine art of cooking.
Charles Perry
Translator’s Note
M.B. DeBevoise
Preface to the American Edition
Lilia Zaouali

Crossroads of the World’s Cuisines
Materials, Techniques, and Terminology

Cold Appetizers
Bread and Broth
Sweet-and-Sour Dishes
Roasts, Meatballs, and Sausages
Meat, Poultry, and Vegetable Stews
Cheese and Other Dairy Dishes
Rice and Omelets
Pastries and Jams
Cheeses, Fermented Condiments, and Wine

Meat and Poultry
Fish, Sauces, and Vegetables
Soups, Pasta, and Couscous
Desserts and Condiments

Lilia Zaouali was born in Tunisia and earned a Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University Sorbonne-Paris. She has taught at the University of Jussieu Paris-7 and the Sarah Lawrence American Academy. The author of numerous essays and scientific articles, Zaouali is a contributor to SLOW, among other journals.
“Engaging and informative. . . . A valuable addition to the literature on medieval Arab cuisine.”—Gastronomica: Journal Of Food & Culture
“Provide(s) enough historical context for the reader to fully appreciate the important role that Islamic culinary history has in the understanding of the history, health, art, and literature of that time.”—Choice
“A remarkable book. . . . Most of the recipes are specific enough to be used today, even if the content of some, such as dates kneaded with locusts, are not. . . . This book provides insight into how cultures develop food choices and how they are spread around the world. It's bright and entertaining and . . . can be enjoyed by all.”—San Francisco Examiner
“A truly unusual book. . . Intriguing.”—Sunday Business Post
“Fascinating selection of recipes taken from ancient cookbooks (which also includes 31 contemporary recipes “that evoke the flavors of the Middle Ages”). There are amazements on nearly every page.”—New York Times Book Review
“A must-have for both scholars and general readers who are desirous of learning about Islamic culinary traditions from the middle ages. It is also a valuable cookbook for cooks of every skill level seeking to delve into this unique culinary heritage or of expanding their own cooking skill by trying out some, if not all, of the 174 recipes in this captivating book.”—History In Review
“Offer(s) thought-provoking ideas for experimentation, while 31 updated recipes evoke the flavors of the Middle Ages for contemporary palates. . . . Sections on cookware, utensils, and table manners enhance the text, and . . . insightful stories capture the essence of daily life.”—Food Arts
“Even if your brainiac never boils a dollop of honey in a splash of vinegar (medieval Islamic cooking being rich in sweet-sour effects), pleasurable sustenance can be had from the book's many fascinating historical nuggets.”—San Francisco Bay Guardian

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