Historians claim that Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq’s 10th-century Kitab al-Tabikh, AKA “The Cooking Book,” is the oldest cookbook in the Arab world. (For all you medieval caliphate cookery aficionados, that’s not to be confused with Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi’s Kitab al-Tabikh, written in 1226.) Al-Warraq’s book, helpfully and brilliantly translated into English by scholar Nawal Nasrallah, is a massive compilation of more than 600 recipes from the Abbasid period, many of which are totally unrecognizable as Middle Eastern cuisine today.
As did many cookbook authors at the time, al-Warraq also included medicinal advice and preparations for drugs and tonics, because feeding the body wasn’t just about fending off hunger.
He also included a number of recipes for fuqqa’, or alcohol-free beer made from barley, and wines used as medicine. One was a mead made from 20 pounds of honey, with a handful of nutmeg, cloves, black cardamom, fennel, ginger, and zedoary (white turmeric), plus some saffron and musk thrown in at the end for good measure. “With God’s permission,” writes al-Warraq, “it is a good cure for cold kidneys, kidney pain, and a cold stomach.”
Would you try it?