Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens
English Translation with Introduction and Glossary by Nawal Nasrallah
Massive and impressive and marvelous are some of the adjectives that come to mind when attempting to describe this book. For the first time we can hold in our hands an English translation of the complete text of the Kitab al - Tabikh or (Book of Dishes or Book of Cookery) a cookery book by Ibn Sayy'r al-Warr'q. This means that 600 plus recipes dating from the tenth century are now available. This edition is drawn from and cross-checked through the three surviving manuscripts which are located in England, Helsinki, and Istanbul.
In translation, the work begins on page 65 of this volume and extends through page 519. This results in 455 pages of recipes for dishes ranging from stews, cold and hot poultry dishes, dips and sauces, boiled dishes, porridges, vegetables, fried dishes, roasted kid and other meats, puddings, pastries, confections, and beverages. The text also includes discussions of the utensils needed, the spices, foods for the elderly and very young, the humors, numerous food poems, manners and decorum. Footnotes abound to guide the reader and point out differences between the texts.
The editor and translator Nawal Nasrallah includes a comprehensive introduction, glossary of Arabic to English and English to Arabic terms, an appendix of important people and places mentioned in the text, and works cited. A full range of five sub-divided indexes, including an ingredients index and a separate index for prepared foods and drinks, compliments the text. The medical terms, recipes, and advice are in yet another index.
The only drawback is the price. The work is being sold at 139.00 / US$ 195.00. I can report that it seems well worth the price. For those of us seriously interested in food and culinary history, this is a volume to treasure and honor with a place on our shelves.
In her Preface, the editor writes that she was most concerned with accuracy and readability. She seems to have accomplished her aims in this fascinating volume about "this most interesting book."