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Delights from the Garden of Eden: A Cookbook and History of the Iraqi Cuisine

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  • Posted September 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    May you enjoy your food in a thousand healths! I was overjoyed t

    May you enjoy your food in a thousand healths! I was overjoyed to finally receive my copy of the beautiful second of Delights from the Garden of Eden. This new edition, which has been several years in the making, features over 300 color photos, the historical and cultural material got a considerable make-over and updates, and measurements are now listed in metric as well as Imperial so readers worldwide can savor the joys of Iraqi cuisine.

    This beautiful tome is part textbook, part cookbook and covers Iraqi cuisine from the Mesopotamian diet to early Babylonian recipes, cookbooks of the Abbasid Era, and modern interpretations, lavishly illustrated throughout with a combination of calligraphy, manuscripts, photographs, and sketches and paintings by modern Iraqi artists that illustrate every aspect of Iraqi food and its preparation.The first 70+ pages are devoted to illuminating the ancient foodways from which modern Iraqi cuisine descends. In each chapter, there are poems, quotes, and street vendor songs reflecting the importance of various staples in everyday life. I was particularly interested in the chapters on savory pastries and desserts, and tried making the olive and cheese bread (pita), apricot balls and lawzeena (almond candy). The olive and cheese bread was a moist, springy dough enriched with yogurt and olive oil and studded with olives, mint, and parsley, making for addictive snacking. The herbs stayed a vibrant green even after being baked into the pita, which makes for a beautiful presentation when sliced into bars as suggested. The apricot balls take only moments to throw together in a food processor, but be sure to use sweetened coconut (snip with kitchen scissors or pulse in the food processor before adding the apricots).
    As with any international cookbook, you will be making or using many different spice blends, including baharat and za'tar. Recipes for the spice blends are given in the glossary. Some recipes also call for noomi Basra (dried lime), amba (pickled mango), and tamarind.

    There is a very thorough list of scholarly works cited, and not one but several indices as well as a name and subject index. The book itself is very high quality, with heavy matte paper, beautiful photography, and a teal blue ribbon to hold your place. At well over 500 pages, it is a large volume, but lays flat neatly, making it easy to cook from any section. You'll also find a wide variety of sample menus for various occasions, including seasonal menus (among them an Iftar menu for Ramadan), ladies' tea parties, and mezze.

    "Delights from the Garden of Eden" is truly a journey; you'll learn about table manners, dining protocol, how the etymology of Arabic food words can be traced back to their earlier roots, the culinary riches and ingenious recipes of medieval Iraqi cooks, and how ancient Mesopotamian customs can be traced to the present. It is a labor of love that illuminates the deep connections between food and culture, past and present, and above all, shows us how much we have in common. Highly recommended; this should be in every cookbook collection if you are interested in Middle Eastern cuisine! If you already own the original first edition, it is WELL worth purchasing the updated and revised second edition.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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