The Culinary Crescent: A History of Middle Eastern Cuisine

This culinary history of the Middle East satisfies the elusive criteria of being all things to all people: broad in scope, yet detailed in discussion, and encyclopedic in its organization, but like a work of narrative nonfiction in its execution. There are sections recounting the importation of ingredients to the region from both the East and West (such as spinach, sugar and tomatoes), and the export of products to Europe (including apricots, coffee and sorbets). Canvasing the distinguishing features of historic cookbooks, Heine provides insights into various cultures. Medieval Arab texts “stress the significance of food and drink as gifts from Allah,” while the Ottomans were most concerned with “how to conduct oneself when invited out to eat.” Recipes for classic dishes like shawarma (grilled marinated lamb) or lokma (fried dough in lemony sugar syrup) add practicality to this scholarly yet readable title.

The Culinary Crescent: A History of Middle Eastern Cuisine

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