Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme … and Lavender

First, a pinch of etymology. The Greeks called lavender nardus after the Syrian city of Naardus, from which comes the word “spikenard.” (More on spikenard in a second.) As for our word, "lavender," we must once again thank the Latin language for lavare, meaning, "to wash." A member of the mint family, and cousin to…

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Peregrinations and Pilgrimages: Egeria and the Flour Soup

Rocks tumbled down the rugged sloping ground and dust spun like little tops as Egeria, a nun from early fourth-century Galicia, climbed toward the rocky summit of Mount Sinai. From that craggy point, she gazed at a world she defined by the holy sites mentioned in the Bible. And from there we saw beneath us…

War. Cook. Eat. Love.

Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey* (Free Press, 2011) , isn’t the first person to cook her way through trying times. Nor will she be the last. But the makeshift kitchens where Ms. Ciezadlo peeled purple eggplant or stirred onions caramelizing for Mjadara Hamra (Lentils with Bulgur Wheat) happened to be in a couple…

Arabs in France: An Early Account by an Egyptian Imam

Rare is the native English speaker who reads and writes Arabic, classical or otherwise. And thus a vast body of literary work lies inaccessible to those who desire to increase their understanding and appreciation of the Arabic-speaking world. Because there is this hole in the material available to scholars and others, the scholarship of much…

Peregrinations and Pilgrimages: Egeria and the Flour Soup

Rocks tumbled down the rugged sloping ground and dust spun like little tops as Egeria, a nun from early fourth-century Galicia, climbed toward the rocky summit of Mount Sinai. From that craggy point, she gazed at a world she defined by the holy sites mentioned in the Bible. And from there we saw beneath us…

Hunger, a Weapon of War

An army marches on its stomach. ~~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~~ Unfortunately, war is the human condition. And where there is war, there is hunger. From time immemorial, hunger has always been a weapon of war and each side will use it, if possible. An enemy's hungry army, along with time, is often the only weapon…

The Archaeology of the Pomegranate

Our sense of the ancientness of the pomegranate comes not just from words, but also from the earth. Words do provide clues to the incredible journey of the pomegranate, such as this little ditty inscribed in Egyptian hieroglyphics --- said to be translated by Ezra Pound and Noel Stock, from an Italian rendition by Boris…

The Chicken or the Egg? 3. Instructions to the Cook

Eggs a guilty pleasure? There's a reason for that. Thanks to Dr. Thomas Royle Dawber’s research team and the famous “gold standard” Framingham Study,[1] eggs morphed into things to be eaten on the sly, enjoyed alone, like a whole bag of foil-wrapped Dove chocolates. Based on the weak statistical correlation between cholesterol levels and heart…

Iran: The Beauty of an Ancient Cuisine

Once upon a time, my brother married a beautiful young woman, an exile from Iran. And at their wedding feast, which she and her mother and sister cooked, I ate Persian food for the first time. Such intricate flavors and ingredient combinations, each mouthful a celebration of life and love. And when she, her mother, …

Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq: The Tenth-Century’s Answer to Jamie Oliver?

Sit at dinner tables as long as you can, and converse to your hearts' desire, for these are the bonus times of your lives. (Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens, p. x) Talk about a window into the past and a mirror to the present! A thousand years plus some separate us from the author and…