Cookbooks

Delights from the Garden of Eden: An important book by Nawal Nasrallah

Delights from the Garden of Eden: Introduction

Delights from the Garden of Eden: A Cookbook and a History of the Iraq Cuisine by Nawal Nasrallah is a recent classic that should be a feature of every food lover’s library.

Delights from the Garden of Eden has the look and feel of a self-published book, but it is the content by which it should be judged. This complex book begins with fifty pages of history of Middle Eastern cuisine to place the recipes that follow into an historical and cultural context.

Delights from the Garden of Eden: The book

Delights from the Garden of Eden consists of twenty one chapters that range from “Iraqi cooking in perspective” through to the final chapter on Beverages. We should also add that the chapters are supplemented by many “Boxes” or special pages devoted to a particular topic – and there are lots of them. Topics handled in this way include for example:

  • Ancient Wives in Ancient Kitchens
  • Great Chefs, Great Cities
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Curious Bread from al-Warraq’s Tenth-Century Baghdadi Cookbook
  • Breaded “Mountain Oysters”
  • Mustard and Vinegar Relish
  • Bone Marrow: A Medieval Delicacy
  • Singing Praises of Dates
  • Coffee and Tea for the Record

And there are literally dozens and dozens more of these Boxes!

We have mentioned the Boxes and the Chapters, but there is also a fifty page Introduction that covers topics from the history of food in the Middle East.

This Introduction includes a discussion of the amazing Abbasid era which extended from the 8th to the 13th century AD.

It also includes a discussion of cookbooks from this important era, for example the Kitab al-Tabeekh by al-Warraq – a vast tome of some 342 pages covering all aspects of the local Baghdadi cuisine. We will write more about this book soon as it is one of the most significant cookbooks in history and Nasrallah has undertaken the daunting task of translating it.

This section is followed by Chapter 1 which is a forty page exploration of techniques and recipes for making various breads including a history of their emergence in the Iraqi cuisine.

Delights from the Garden of Eden then delves into soups, snacks, stews, rice, grains and beans, lamb and beef, poultry, fish, savoury pastries, desserts, cakes, cookies and ice cream. All recipes are treated with commendable thoroughness and clarity.

Nasrallah is to be congratulated on her efforts in compiling this exciting and useful cookbook.

This book definitely deserves a place in our Foodtourist Top Fifty Cookbooks because there are many exciting recipes and also Nasrallah opens our eyes to the complexity and deliciousness of Iraqi cuisine.

You can also read some of her recipes on her blog which you can reach by clicking on the link below:

Nawal Nasrallah blog

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