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Monday, June 16, 2014


Photo from Softly Lit Studios
enhuerar(se), volverse huero, addled, rotten, empty, sterile, rancid, to ruin food by over boiling and subsequently cooling. See encina de engűedo. [Anón/Huici. 1966:120:85:172:112: Ares. 1994:102; Ibn Razīn/Granja. 1960:108:25; and Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:155]

As a medievalist, there is nothing more upseting than a reader who thinks medieval cooking consists of rotten food drowned in spices. That is totally impossible because medieval stomachs were as sensitive as ours today. The following is a “recipe” from Nola in which he makes clear that rotten food was discarded.

Further, food products where cooked in ways different from our own. Nola points out that this out. If carefully considered, the translation of Nola’s “recipe” below, medieval cookery is as or more hygienic and nutritious than that today where cleaning staff is almost non-existent and fast food seems to be a necessity in this age.


Many are fond of and are inclined to eat foods that others detest and this is because desert people cook with dates . . .   and like nothing better; foreigners cook rice with sumac and it pleases them, while it is disgusting for others; Syrians like and prefer mulayyan (bread cooked under ashes) for weddings and this is their favorite bread; and Tunisians in Egypt, cook fresh fish, while preparing dishes like madî ra (meat cooked in sour cream), hadramiyya (a dish flavored with sour grapes) and murûziyya known as "al-`asami” in Al-Andalus which is chicken with prunes etc. Egyptians prefer murûziyya while Iraquans detest it, because they consider it to be bad medicine due to the addition of pears, grapes, and oil. Country folk like milla (bread cooked under the ashes), which they eat at meals, while city folk detest it.

Photo from: Betty
Many people eat butter and add it to bread, while others cannot bear to smell, muchless + eating it; and if someone cannot stand a dish or food, he should not criticize the whole world because of different characterics, limitations, humors, opinions and aspects caused by various customs and tastes.

If a person detests, avoids and hates something, it is all right if another prefers it, likes it and is inspired by it. It must be stated that it is permissible for another to prefer it, like it and be inclined toward it.  It is necessary to add that all people have interests and for that there are those who look for and desire varied foods.

When one is keen about meat, it is most important to consider the way in which it is to be cooked and it should be prepared with the best ingredients to strengthen and nourish the eater. Quality diminishes opposition of the people’s natures for their sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic humors; some cook food in water and salt and find it good, others cook with vinegar, others with milk and others with sumac and murri etc.

There are many varieties of dishes and garnishes. People have opposite tastes in foods, the strength of seasonings and the advantages of particular food items. Concerning the subject of preparing food, it is fitting to review that of bread. Urgency and necessity compels many to eat bread hastily in the shortest time possible, like immigrants, messengers, those who travel during the night and travelers in general: some prefer bread cooked under the ashes while others like fried bread. Some prefer it baked in ovens while others in a tannur. There are many kinds of bread and every type has a well known name such as: al-ișbahānī, the ruqāq, al-labaq, al-mušțab[1], al-marīš[2], al-mardūf, water bread, the tābūnī, al.magmūm[3], al-mašūk[4] and the mațlū[5]'

Photo from: jrtce1
The kings of the Orient have a custom and distinctive characteristic. They order bakers to prepare numerous of kinds of bread and present them on a large, broad tray, which bakers call “the exposition tray,” in the center of which they display the bread they have made for the master of the house; when the king has seen these breads, he choices that which pleases and appeals to him.

In regard to the suitable order of medicine, this is a method of cooking different types of foods and the balance between various foods. Consideration is taken concerning the warmth or coldness of foods in order to take advantage of them. The same is true of mild foods, heavy foods and light foods as well as the time it takes to digest each item.

I must mention what makes food agreeable and how to improve the preparation. I divide this subject into the three steps as created by the experts. It should begin with the culinary art of taking care to prevent filth and decay in the kitchen and to clean utensils used in cooking and the kitchen itself.

Many people say that the best part of food is that which does not met the eye; but this is not so. The best foods are those the palate has observed in the eye of the beholder, and a person trusted to observe and insure that sanitary standards are upheld.

Many cooks, after having finished their work, erroneously believe that speedy preparation and quiting is essential. They are careless and present dishes haphazardly. It is important that a vigilator insures good hygiene in the kitchen and encourages the artistic presentation of dishes to attract the eater.

These conditions have lead many caliphs and kings to order food prepared in front of them. This has has led some to write cookery books on the subject. Among these are Ahmad Ibn al-Mu'taşim, Ibrāhīm b. al-Mahdī, Yahyá b. Jālid, al-Mu’tamid’ and 'Abd Allah b. Talha, and in addition to these, scholars, judges, secretaries, viziers, and notables.[6]

[1] Perry says, “or perhaps mushattab: slit bread.”
[2] Perry calls this murayyash (brushed with a feacher).
[3] Perry calls this “veiled bread.”
[4] Perry calls this mushawwak (spiny bread).
[5] Perry calls this ribbed bread). The last is a kind known to the country folk of Morocco. 
[6] See Rodison, pp 100-101.

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