The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria
By Marlene Matar
2017, Interlink, 978-1-56656-986-6, $40 hb.
Reviewed by Tom Verde on May 1, 2017
Considering the recent fate of Aleppo, it is easy to be distracted from the fact that for much of the city’s long, vibrant life (Aleppo is one of the world’s oldest inhabited places), it has been “steeped in tradition, history and culture,” writes Marlene Matar. Its “reputation as a culinary magnet” is equally venerable, as reflected by Aleppo’s very name: milk (haleb in Arabic). Matar’s ode to Aleppan food and, by extension, Syrian and regional Middle Eastern cuisine reminds us of the city’s importance as a cultural crossroads. Here, Persian merchants, Belgian diplomats and Arab food vendors all broke bread and dipped into delightful dishes such as green garlic and scallion stew and spicy grilled kebabs made of ground lamb seasoned with Aleppo’s signature crushed red pepper; or they contemplatively sipped cumin tea in shady caravanserais. This comprehensive volume preserves the culinary heritage of a proud city.