About eleven or twelve years ago my best friend, Jessica, gave me a mammoth book called A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright. It’s part history, part cookbook and about 2,500 pages long (give or take 900 or so). To be honest (sorry Jess) I looked through it briefly at the time but never delved very far.
Last month I picked it back up in part because I wanted to find a recipe for trotters (pigs feet), an economical cut I am both fascinated with and disgusted by. Truth be told, I skimmed the recipes quickly once again and put the 5 1/2 lb. book back down. Yesterday, though, I started to really read it and though it is a mind swirlingly fast paced tour through the ages, I’ve found a few fascinating things.
1. The long and important, valued and exalted place the humble cabbage holds in historical cuisine.
2. How progress in agricultural techniques, crops and yields is the foundation upon which development – cities, economies and learning – sits.
3. The importance of the kitchen garden in the early Arab world and it’s close connection to God. Here is what Wright has to say:
” The (Arab) enchantment with greenery and the description of the Garden of Paradise in the Koran led to a penchant among Arab rulers to collect plants for their kitchen gardens. The kitchen garden was a garden supplying not only food but also natural beauty and it gave rise to a genre of Arabic poetry known as rawdiya, the garden poem, meant to conjure the image of the Garden of Paradise.” pg. 10
If we could somehow get to a place where we exalt those who care and raise the food that nourishes us. In today’s world we are so disconnected from where our meals originate. We mindlessly cook or eat without even acknowledging the field in which our cabbage was raised and the family that nurtured it, harvested and sent it off into the world.
Maybe we do need some garden poets.