Scheherazade's Feasts -- Foods of the Medieval Arab World by Habeeb Salloum, Muna Salloum, and Leila Salloum Elias, UPenn. Press '13, 218 pages, ASIN #081224477X. Index, bibliography, notes, unillustrated..
Trade and conquest might, at first blush, seem unrelated to fine food, but as the authors write in their combination history/cookbook to introduce the reader to the medieval Arab culinary empire, they are. "With trade and conquest," they explain, "came riches, abundance, new ingredients, and ideas."
This new culinary culture also inspired an extensive body of literature, they say: "Poets penned lyrics on the beauty of asparagus or the aroma of crushed almonds; nobles documented the dining customs obliged by etiquette and opulence; manuals prescribed meal plans to deepen the pleasure of eating and curtail digestive distress."
Much like a restaurant menu, the authors have divided their book into five sections: appetizers, soups, entrees (including food for vegetarians as well), desserts, and beverages; as well as sample menus for special occasions. A Christmas dinner, for example, might feature fava beans with yogurt and garlic to start off, followed by an aromatic soup with rice and pomegranate seeds, spiced lamb with walnuts or chicken stew, and fried stuffed pancakes for dessert.
About the authors:
Habeeb Salloum has written many books, largely on Arabian cooking. Muna Salloum and Leila Salloum Elias are co-authors of The Sweets of Araby: Enchanting Recipes from the Tales of the 1001 Arabian Nights.
Report from the Interior by Paul Auster, Henry Holt '13, $27, 271 pages, ASIN #0805098577. One hundred seven b&w images, grouped as an "album."
Acclaimed novelist Paul Auster has turned his attention in recent years to non-fiction, especially memoirs, most recently with Winter Journal, in which he relates the development of his physical self. In Report from the Interior, Auster relates his encounters of his interior self with the outer world.
His first section, dealing largely with his babyhood and developing childhood, is especially well-written and will evoke both fond and harsh memories among anyone of retirement age from the postwar fifties and sixties. Unlike most such memoirs, Auster caps his off with an album of more than 100 black and white images, objectifying some of his written memories -- for example, a dish running away with a spoon to illustrate a nursery rhyme; photos of Hopalong Cassidy and Gabby Hayes, to bring alive his teenage memories of the Wild West as seen on the silver screen; and a photo of N.Y. Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford, to accompany a tale of the author meeting (he thinks) the Hall of Famer.
Roman Britain -- A New History by Guy de la Bedoyere, Thames & Hudson '13, $26.95, 288 pages, ASIN #0500287481. Index, bibliography, notes, chronology..
From the back cover:
"This illuminating account of Britain as a Roman province sets the Roman conquest and occupation of the island within the larger context of Romano-British society and how it functioned. For this revised edition, the text, illustrations and bibliography have been updated to incorporate new research and recent discoveries, including the Frome Hoard, the largest Roman coin hoard ever fouond in Britain; evidence at Silchester of possible lavish building work after the Boudican Revolt; the 30 decapitated male skeletons found in York; and the magnificent Crosby Garrett parade helmet.
"The superb illustrations include reconstruction drawings, dramatic aerial views of Roman remains, and images of Roman villas, mosaics, coins, pottery and sculpture."
Author Guy de la Bedoyere has written numerous books on the period, including Eagles Over Britannia, Roman Towns in Britain, and Cities of Roman Italy.