A 13th-Century Cookbook Featuring 475 Recipes from Moorish Spain Gets Published in a New Translated Edition

Some of the dis­tinc­tive­ness of Spain as we know it today comes as a lega­cy of the peri­od from 700 to 1200, when most of it was under Mus­lim rule. The cul­ture of Al-Andalus, as the Islam­ic states of mod­ern-day Spain and Por­tu­gal were then called, sur­vives most vis­i­bly in archi­tec­ture. But it also had its own cui­sine, devel­oped by not just Mus­lims, but by Chris­tians and Jews as well. What­ev­er the dietary restric­tions they indi­vid­u­al­ly worked under, “cooks from all three reli­gions enjoyed many ingre­di­ents first brought to the Iber­ian penin­su­la by the Arabs: rice, egg­plants, car­rots, lemons, sug­ar, almonds, and more.”

So writes Atlas Obscu­ra’s Tom Verde in an arti­cle occa­sioned by the pub­li­ca­tion of a thir­teenth-cen­tu­ry Moor­ish cook­book. Fiḍālat al-Khiwān fī Ṭayyibāt al‑Ṭaʿām wa-l-Alwān, or Best of Delec­table Foods and Dish­es from al-Andalus and al-Maghrib had long exist­ed only in bits and pieces. A “mad­den­ing­ly incom­plete car­rot recipe, along with miss­ing chap­ters on veg­eta­bles, sauces, pick­led foods, and more, left a gap­ing hole in all exist­ing edi­tions of the text, like an emp­ty aisle in the gro­cery store.” But in 2018, British Library cura­tor of Ara­bic sci­en­tif­ic man­u­scripts Dr. Bink Hal­lum hap­pened upon a near­ly com­plete fif­teenth- or six­teenth-cen­tu­ry copy of the Fiḍāla with­in a man­u­script on medieval Arab phar­ma­col­o­gy.

The Fiḍāla itself dates to around 1260. It was com­posed in Tunis by Ibn Razīn al-Tujībī, “a well-edu­cat­ed schol­ar and poet from a wealthy fam­i­ly of lawyers, philoso­phers, and writ­ers. As a mem­ber of the upper class, he enjoyed a life of leisure and fine din­ing which he set out to cel­e­brate in the Fiḍāla.” The Chris­t­ian Recon­quista had already put a bit­ter end to all that leisure and fine din­ing, and it was in rel­a­tive­ly hard­scrab­ble African exile that al-Tujībī wrote this less as a cook­book than as “an exer­cise in culi­nary nos­tal­gia, a wist­ful look back across the Strait of Gibral­tar to the ele­gant main cours­es, side dish­es, and desserts of the author’s youth, an era before Spain’s Mus­lims and Jews had to hide their cul­tur­al cuisines.”

That descrip­tion comes from food his­to­ri­an Naw­al Nas­ral­lah, trans­la­tor of the com­plete Fiḍāla into an Eng­lish edi­tion pub­lished last month by Brill. In some of its sec­tions al-Tujībī cov­ers breads, veg­eta­bles, poul­try dish­es, and “meats of quadrupeds”; in oth­ers, he goes into detail on stuffed tripe, “edi­ble land snails,” and tech­niques for “rem­e­dy­ing over­ly salty foods and raw meat that does not smell fresh.” (The book includes 475 recipes in total.) Though much in the Moor­ish diet is a far cry from that of the major­i­ty in mod­ern Eng­lish-speak­ing coun­tries, inter­est in his­tor­i­cal gas­tron­o­my has been on the rise in recent years. And as even those sep­a­rat­ed from al-Tujībī by not just cul­ture but sev­en cen­turies’ worth of time know, what­ev­er your rea­sons for leav­ing a place, you soon long for noth­ing as acute­ly as the food — and that long­ing can moti­vate impres­sive achieve­ments.

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Did Peo­ple Eat in Medieval Times? A Video Series and New Cook­book Explain

An Archive of 3,000 Vin­tage Cook­books Lets You Trav­el Back Through Culi­nary Time

A Data­base of 5,000 His­tor­i­cal Cook­books — Cov­er­ing 1,000 Years of Food His­to­ry — Is Now Online

Dis­cov­er Japan’s Old­est Sur­viv­ing Cook­book Ryori Mono­gatari (1643)

Tast­ing His­to­ry: A Hit YouTube Series Shows How to Cook the Foods of Ancient Greece & Rome, Medieval Europe, and Oth­er Places & Peri­ods

Down­load 10,000+ Books in Ara­bic, All Com­plete­ly Free, Dig­i­tized and Put Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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