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The Anonymous Al-Andalus Cookbook


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The English text of the book is a translation by Charles Perry, working from the original Arabic, a printed copy of the Arabic and its translation into Spanish, and assisted by an English translation by various persons translating collaboratively the text from Spanish to English.

I have altered the English translation by:

  • editing the translated text,
  • reorganizing the recipes logically into cookbook chapters,
  • adding extra text and explanatory text in brackets,
  • repeating some recipes in more than one section for ease of use
  • incorporating many of the translator(s) and editor(s) notes into the text, and
  • adding a complete Table of Contents and Appendices.

I have made this 180 page document into a free-to-download PDF.  The free Adobe PDF Reader allows for simple movement between recipes and chapters using a hyperlinked table of contents and bookmarks, and to search easily by any word, any ingredient.  You can also easily print out the book or sections of the book.

And you can purchase a 180 page print-on-demand paperback book at cost (4.22$) plus shipping via Amazon.com’s CreateSpace online company’s page for the book.

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This book’s original title was:

Kitab al tabij fi-l-Maghrib wa-l-Andalus fi `asr al-Muwahhidin, li-mu’allif mayhul (or majhul).

It means:

The Book of Cooking in Maghreb and Andalus in the era of Almohads, by an unknown author.

It is commonly known in English today as:

The Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook.

The book was complied by a scribe in the 1400s, whose name appeared on the first page of the text, but the first page has not survived the ages.  His work contains recipes copied from a number of older works in the 1200s, some surviving and some not surviving independently to today.

The major part of the English translation is by Charles Perry, a scholar, food historian, and writer of a food column for the L.A. Times.  Additional notes are by various other writers, including myself.

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Like all ancient cookbooks, this one is made up of pieces of other cookbooks.  Think of it as a recipe notebook from a busy estate kitchen.  The reigning cook added to his recipe collection by:

  • combing through other cookbooks,
  • learning from kitchen help who had worked for other households,
  • receiving recipes collected by members of the household while abroad,
  • learning from cooks who visited the estate together with their employers, and by
  • corresponding with cooks in other households.

Periodically, these cooks published their recipe collections for the honor of their patron, or for their own honor.  Then scribes would copy the books for a client, or for the book’s owner to give to friends, or as a gift, or even just for posterity.

This cookbook borrows directly from several well-known cookbooks, all from roughly the same period.

  • One of these is by Muḥammad bin al-Ḥasan bin Muḥammad bin al-Karīm al-Baghdadi, usually called al-Baghdadi [d. 1239 AD], who compiled a cookbook called Kitab al-Ṭabīḫ, or The Book of Dishes, written in 1226.
  • Some recipes come from cookbooks by the gastronome Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi [b.779-d.839 CE], half-brother of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid.
  • Some recipes come from cookbooks by authors unknown to us today.

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The Andalucía, or Al-Andalus, of the 1200s was not today’s southern region of Andalucía in Spain.  It was the name used for all of the territory controlled in Spain by Arab Muslims, originally from North Africa.  The major part of Spain, excluding only it’s Northern regions, was under Arab rule between 711 and 1492.  Al-Andalus was renowned for its centers of learning, beautiful architecture, and religious tolerance.

The Kingdom of Granada was the last area to fall to the Spanish-Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in what Spain calls a ‘re-conquest’ of their territory.  The defeated Muslims call it a barbarous tragedy.  Some Moroccan families still retain, in a prominent place in their Moroccan homes, the key to their ancestors’ family home that was taken from them in Al-Andalus during that period.

I have other old (medieval) cookbooks available free on my website.

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Sicilian Marzapan-Almond-Paste Candies

You may be wondering what this book has to do with Italophiles.  Well…

Much of what is unique about Sicilian cuisine comes from the early Arab-Moor colonizers of the island who brought with them new agricultural techniques, new plants and spices, and new cooking traditions.

I have a page on my website that looks at the links between the Al Andalus (the same family ruled in Sicily) cuisine, well described in this ancient cookbook, and today’s Sicilian cuisine and Italian cooking, and Sicily’s Arabo-Sicula cuisine.

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