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The Customs That Many People Follow In Their Countries

This is an excerpt from An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook
(Andalusia, 13th c. - Charles Perry, trans.)
The original source can be found at David Friedman's website

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 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, hadramiyya, and murûziyya 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). The kings of the East have a custom and beautiful idiom: 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.


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