According to Hippocrates...

It is fitting to choose, among foods for the sick, that which will be the most pleasing. Galen says in his commentary that the significance of this saying of Hippocrates is that the most pleasing is the food that the sick man desires and to which his spirit is inclined, and even if it is wanting in quality or by its condition produces a harmful humor, the man, taking it gladly and with gusto, keeps it in his stomach, his spirit accepts it and his nature is accustomed to it. Cook it completely and it will be perfectly digested and much praised, and the harm will be changed to profit and the bitterness to good [preceding 5 words not in published Arabic text]. Many sick men have been seen to improve with harmful foods, if they took them gladly.


On What Foods Should be Taken Alone and Should Not be Mixed with Other Foods 

This is a chapter of much profit for guarding the health and escaping diarrhea, rotting of foods, and changes in their nature. Foods of slow digestion, when they are mixed in the early morning with foods that go down rapidly and digest easily, separate one apart from the other, and this is the cause of indigestion, diarrhea, acid production, and formation of bad bile. For this reason all foods that are dense and slow going down, contrary to the digestion, heavy on the stomach and long in digestion, should be eaten alone, not mixed with others, and not eaten except in case of intense hunger and a strong, true desire. Such are harisa, heads and meat of fat cattle, rice with milk, cheese pies,[44] fatty stuffed dishes and the like. If these heavy dishes, slow to digest and to go down, are not eaten except alone and unmixed, since such mixing is corrupting and harmful, when they reach the stomach alone and the stomach turns, squeezes, and heats them, it cooks them and the nature is strengthened for digesting them, and the resulting mix is praise worthy; but when the stomach finds them mixed with others, it burns, inflames, and corrupts the light foods.

The Customs that Many People Follow in Their Countries

Many are fond and inclined toward foods that others detest, and this is why the people of Yemen cook [p. 22 recto] with dates ...[one word missing]... and like nothing better; the Persians cook rice with sumac ... and it agrees with them, while it disgusts others; the Syrians love and prefer mulayyan for weddings and like nothing better; the people of Tanais in the land of Egypt cook fresh fish as they cook their meat, such as madî ra,[45] hadramiyya,[46] and murûziyya[47] dishes [al-tabîkh al-murûzi]; the people of Egypt prefer muruziyya dishes and the people of Iraq detest them, because they consider them like a medicine, because of the pears, jujubes, and oil in them. The desert folk like malla [bread cooked in ashes], because it is their food, and the people of the cities and capitals detest it. Many people eat butter, and add it to bread, while others cannot bear to smell it, much less to eat it; and if someone disparages a dish or a food, he need not intend to disparage everyone, since the natures, the strengths, the humors, the aspect, the customs and the tastes are different, and if one sort of person detests, hates, and avoids it, it may be that another may prefer, enjoy, and be inclined toward it. It is necessary to mention one thing and its opposite, since every person has his own tastes, and for everything there is someone who seeks it out and desires it. (God) inspires people to like to roast meat, and He inspires the cooking and making of it with whatever will improve and augment its strength, flavor, and characteristic virtue so it may be cause to improve the opposing natures of the people, for there are people of sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic humor; some cook with water and salt and find it good, others cook with vinegar, others with milk and others with sumac and murri and so on. Many are the differences of people in their dishes and their garnishes; their tastes, their foods, their strengths, and their benefits are opposite, and according to what is used in the subject of cookery, so is what is fitting in the subject of bread. Need or urgency obliges many people to take bread and eat it hastily in the shortest time, such as bedouins, herdsmen, messengers, members of raiding parties and those who travel; some find bread on the coals very good, and others prefer fried bread and what is made in the tajine; add to these the (bread) oven and the tannur, in which many kinds of bread are made, and put to each of these kinds the best-known name, such as isbahâni, ruqâq, labaq, mushtab [or perhaps mushattab: slit bread], murayyash (brushed with a feather), mardû f, water bread, tâbûni, maghmûm (veiled bread), mushawwak (spiny bread) and madlû' (ribbed bread).[48] The kings of the East have a custom and beautiful idiom: [p. 22, verso] they command the bakers to prepare a number of kinds of bread and present them on a large, broad tray, which the bakers call the exposition tray, in the center of which they present the bread they have made for the master of the house; when the king has seen these breads, he eats of that which pleases and attracts him. As for the method fitting in medicine, it is the method of cooking the different kinds and the balance of the various flavors, because each kind is good for heat, or for cold, or for moderation, according to its heaviness or lightness and the speed and temper of digesting it.

I have thought to mention what makes food agreeable and improves the preparation. I divide it into three parts, as the learned order them. I say that the first, which is necessary to start in the culinary art, is the care to avoid dirt and decay, and to clean the utensils used for cooking, in cleaning the kitchen. Many people say that the best part of food is what the eye does not see; but this is not so, for the best of foods is that which the palate has observed, the eye has seen, and a person trusted to know the truth has made sure of. He who works as a cook, after having finished his work, may neither think nor worry about how he has done, for he thinks the end desired of him is quickness in finishing and departing, but he does not see fit to remember his little care and poor presentation and how necessary it is to be vigilant against them. These conditions are what has led many caliphs and kings to order the cooking done in their presence; and necessity has led some to cook what they eat for themselves, so far as to prepare the kitchen, and to write many books on the subject. Among these are Ahmad Ibn al-Mu'tasim, Ibrahim b. al-Mahdi, Yahya b. Khalid, al-Mu'tamid and 'Abd Allah b. Talha, and besides these, scholars, judges, secretaries, viziers, and notables.[49]

It is fitting to deal with the knowledge of those things with which the art of cooking is complete, and by whose presence a kitchen is called a kitchen, the variety of foods and their flavors, according to the various kinds of vinegar, syrups, murri, oil, mustard, spices, the juices of apples, pomegranates and raisins, and all the basics for knowing the good from the bad; for if they are bad, what is made with them will be ruined and the dishes will be the opposite of the highly regarded foods which people find delicious, for they please [p. 23, recto] souls with their goodness and deliciousness. Know that familiarity with the use of spices is the first basis in cooked dishes, for it is the foundation of cooking, and on it cookery is built. In spices is what particularly suits the various recipes, those of vinegar and foods such as the various kinds of tafaya, fried dishes and the like; in spices too is what distinguishes the foods, gives them flavor, and improves them; in spices is benefit and avoidance of harm.

Coriander enters into all dishes and is the specialty of tafâyâ and mahshi, because it goes well with foods in the stomach, and does not pass through rapidly before it has been digested.

Cumin appears in dishes of vinegar and in the sauces of foods fried with what birds and other meats are fried with. And cumin, with its ability to reduce winds and for its digestibility, goes well with foods flavored with vinegar or murri.

As for caraway, it enters into karanbiyya and baqliyya mukarrara [spelled makawwara], and when there are cabbage and spinach in a dish or tharîd, caraway is necessary, for it improves its taste and gives it sharpness and removes the windiness from the vegetables. As for tafâ yâ in its varieties and mahshi, neither cumin nor caraway enters into them, but rather cilantro and pepper; and that which one may wish to add of aromatic herbs, such as lavender and cinnamon, will be mentioned in its place, God willing.

Saffron is used in mukhallals, jimlis, muthallaths, mahshis and chicken dishes in which vinegar and murri enter. Some dissolve saffron in water and then put it in the pot at the end of cooking, but saffron should be put in only at the beginning with the meat, boiled with pepper and suitable spices, to regulate its cooking and color. There are others who put in vinegar and murri at the end, after the cooking is done; the taste of the raw vinegar stays in the sauce, and none of its flavor enters into the meat. They think that if they put it in at the start, its acidity will go away and diminish its taste. But it is not as they believe; cooking rather augments and sharpens the flavor of the vinegar, for it evaporates the water from the vinegar and strengthens its acidity, and hides any greasy or heavy flavor it has, and makes that flavor vanish on serving the meat and whatever was cooked with it, like that which is made with saffron, if it is put in at the start.

There are those who grind salt and put it in the pot, as if it will not dissolve without grinding, too much of which neither hurts nor helps. If grinding is necessary, do it in a mortar of stone or wood, as we have indicated.

[p. 23, verso] There are others who sprinkle ground pepper over the food when it is cut for eating; this is a practice of the Christians and Berbers. And cinnamon and lavender especially are sprinkled upon food on the plate before eating, but that is in particular dishes, not in all.

Garbanzos. In their skin they have no use in the various kinds of cooking. It is a dish of bedouins and gluttons; those who want to strengthen themselves with it take only its juice, add it to meat, and make a dish or a tharîd of it. I have seen in The History of al-Zahra,[50] one of the histories of Cordoba, that in the days of 'Abd al-Rahman al-Nasir li-Din Allah and those of his son al-Hakam, every morning outside the gates of the castle were found five bags of garbanzos, whose juice was taken and carried to the kitchen, the waste thrown out, and taken to the sick and the poor. I saw also in the same History that every day they crumbled thirty loaves of bread for the fish of the pond that was in the palace.

Clarified Butter is not employed in dishes at all, because it is only used in the various kinds of rafîs[51] and in some tharîds, and in similar foods of women. It is needed for oil when there is too much dryness and hardness and pungent, vinegared things in order to cut their sharpness and make them soft and smooth, and do them great benefit. The fundamental thing, in all these dishes, is that abundant fat predominate over its broth to the exclusion of everything else, whether the meat be weak or fat, for oil greases foods and improves them and makes them emit sharp odor and is good for them.

Murri is not suitable to be used unless of the infused sort, because of its benefits and penetrating quality; following this is murri made of grape juice with spices but without burned bread. The murri that people make with scorched honey and bread and other things is not suitable to be used at all, for it causes black bile and has neither benefit nor penetrating flavor.

With regard to vinegar, it is good for cooking and for other pharmaceutical uses, such as sikanjabîn and vinegar of wild onions. White vinegar is made of pure, extremely sweet grapes; vinegar is necessary for foods that form a crust and are harmful to the stomach, for it makes them gain strength and flavor, or when it is necessary to soften [p. 24, recto] and cut up the foods without heating. When vinegar is put in sikbâ j,[52] it is strong in sourness, very sharp; it is regulated by joining it with sweets and plenty of fat.

Mustard; it is fitting to avoid old mustard seed, because if it is old, it acquires a bitterness, and for this reason it should be washed first with hot water and then made. Fresh mustard need not be washed, because it adds sharpness without bitterness.


How It Is Made

Take fresh mustard seeds and pound them a little in a mortar of stone or wood until they are crushed; wash it with hot water so the bitterness departs, and drain out this water. Then return it to the mortar and crush it hard, sprinkling with sharp vinegar little by little. Then squeeze it in a piece of thick cloth or a rough wool apron; then continue to pound it until it is disintegrated, and squeeze it until it comes out like fine talbîna [dissolved starch]. Then pound sweet, peeled almonds very hard, until they become like dough, and macerate until dissolved so that it moderates its bitterness, makes it white and lets it gain dregs and sweetness, because of the coolness and sweetness of the almonds; this is the benefit of the almonds, and their use to the mustard. When this recipe is complete, use it in kebabs and other heavy, fatty foods, God willing.

It is said in Anushirwan's cookbook[53] that he who wants his health to last should not eat foods that have spent a night in a copper container, for even very good foods, if they spend a night in a copper container, or are prepared therein, reach a bad state and cause revulsion. He also says that fish, if fried and then put in a copper container, or prepared in one and left there until they are fried, are spoiled, because these foods take the force and flavor of the copper the moment that the fish, milk, and any such food left overnight uncovered, is disturbed. Maggots creep out at night, seek out salt and collect it, for most insects and maggots seek out salt wherever it is, and sometimes their spittle falls on it, and they rub against it to loosen their skins, and this is a great harm. For this reason one should put on foods no more salt than what is dissolved in them, or cover them carefully. Another thing to avoid is always cooking in a single pot, especially if it is not enamelled; many servants don't wash the pot emptied of food [p.24 verso] and turn it over on the ground while still warm, and that spot might be conducive to rot, and vapors from the ground rise into the pot and poisons are composed between the two, and everything cooked in it turns bad. There was a person who ordered that pots be prepared according to the number of days in the year, so that a new pot was cooked in every day, and when a pot was emptied, a new one was taken; he who cannot do this, orders his servants to clean the pot every night with hot water and bran, for this is what inclines the spirit to accept food, and if this is not done the spirit has an aversion to the food, and the food takes on a bad taste, because its remaining there long makes it corrupt and not what it should be. It is proper to try to do this, and not to scorn it, and thus to protect against harm as much as possible.

Of the Utensils that Those Charged with Cooking or Pharmacy Must Have Ready

A mortar, of white marble or of a hard wood such as chestnut, terebinth, olive, ash, boxwood, or jujube, prepared for pounding things that should by no means be pounded in copper: salt, garlic, cilantro, onion, mustard, mint, citron [leaves] and other plants and greens; and fruits, like apples, quince, and pomegranate, and meat and fat, almonds, stuffings for ka'k and bread foods, and anything else that is moist or fatty, above all if left in copper until it turns green, is altered and takes on a bad state. Of this hard wood are the spoons and ladles; and the board on which meat is cut, and the board on which ka'k and bread foods are rolled out. It should be smooth and extremely polished; and likewise the utensil with which mirkâs[54] is made should be of white glass, glassy ceramic, or hard wood, because if it is of copper, the holes through which the ground sausage-meat passes turn green, and that mixes with the meat and it alters, as has been explained.

How the Service of Dishes is Ordered, and Which is Fitting to be First, and Which Last

The first dish to be presented is a feminine one, such as baqliyya mukarrara and the various kinds of tafâyâs; after this the dish jimli; then muthallath (meat cooked with vegetables, vinegar and saffron); then the dish of murri; then mukhallal (a vinegared dish); then mu'assal (a honeyed dish); then fartun; then another mu'assal. This is the succession of the seven dishes and the order in which they are eaten. Many of the great figures and their companions order [p. 25, recto] that the separate dishes be placed on each table before the diners, one after another; and by my life, this is more beautiful than putting an uneaten mound all on the table, and it is more elegant, better-bred, and modern; this has been the practice of the people of al-Andalus and the West, of their rulers, great figures, and men of merit from the days of 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz[55] and the Banu Umayya to the present.[56]

And now I begin to describe the simplest dishes; I proceed first to discuss the various kinds of tafaya, because it is one of the most noble dishes, the most balanced for the stomach, and the best adapted to every humor, particularly the melancholic and phlegmatic.