Atraf al-tib

In the Medieval Arabic Cookery book, pg. 132, Atraf al-tib is defined as…”a spice mixutre frequently used in cookery, made of lavender, betel, bay leaves, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, cloves, rosebuds, beech-nuts, ginger and pepper, it being necessary to grind the pepper separately.  This could be compared to English poudre douce or poudre forte as a period pre-made spice mixture.

Another description, on pg. 155, …”Fragrant bundles’ which are considered so important by the author of Wusla that he defines them before launching into the truly culinary chapters of his work. Another category, which is mentioned almost as often, is formed by abzar harra, ‘hot seeds’, presumably spicy seeds.

So we move from one very specific order of spices, then move the mention of ‘Fragrant bundle’, plural along with the mention of spicy seeds.  As the Middle East was an epee center for spice trade.  This would be the equivalent of having spice stores on every street with a grocery store.  Well we have that now, back then there were spice merchants on market streets.  It would be inconceivable that only one flavor style was imposed.  Most recipes include spices, in no particular order, that pull from parts of the first definition of spices but including others.

This theory is supported by the next excerpt.

“The usual term for a spice mixture was atraf al-tib (sides of scent), other wise called afawih (al-)tib (mouths of scent) or afway jayyida (good mouths); these odd names may refer to the paper packets in which the spices were sold.  Other recipes refer to merely abazir (spices, seeds).  All these terms might have refereed to standardized spice mixtures, bu they also seem to be used quite loosely.  Badhinjan mukhallal calls for ‘those afwah, namely toasted caraway, and coriander and salt, add to what preceded, and mustard’. (Rodinson, pg. 284)

Spices, and their combination, seemed to be loosely interpreted by definitly incorperated into recipes based on what the user liked or thought was best.  Every ones idea of the right combination probably changed from chef to chef and cook to cook.





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