In this episode we explore the relationship between cooking and writing. With special guest Anny Gaul, we talk about the origins of national dishes such as couscous and koshary; medieval Arabic cook books; and representations of kitchens and cooking in Egyptian literature.
Anny Gaul’s writing and recipes, including the one on “bad translations” of hummus are online at cookingwithgaul.com. She wrote about Egyptian koshary as the dish we need right now for Eater. Her article on Abla Nazira’s famous cookbooks is here. Her analysis of the depictions of cooking, kitchens and happiness in Egyptian writing can be found in the anthology Insatiable Appetite: Food as Cultural Signifier in the Middle East and Beyond. The essay on couscous from which she reads at the beginning of the episode can be found in the last issue of Arab Lit Quarterly.
Treasure Trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table: A Fourteenth-Century Egyptian Cookbook, ed. and translated by Nawal Nasrallah and Scents and Flavors: A Syrian Cookbook, tr. Charles Perry, are both out in paperback this year.
Many adapted recipes are available at Nawal Nasrallah’s website, nawalcooking.blogspot.com.
The Library of Arabic Literature offers free Arabic-only PDFs of their works, including Scents and Flavors.
This episode mentions the Egyptian novelist Sonallah Ibrahim’s Zaat, in which the kitchen is a site of mishaps, set-backs and middle-class aspirations.
Here are links to further recent writing in Arabic on food:
CIC Collective Workshop, Taste of Letters
A historical essay in the Al Jazeera Culture Section
Novelist Nael El Toukhy in Mada Masr
An essay on food in Ottoman era poetry