Scents and Flavors

Scents and Flavors

A Syrian Cookbook

242 Pages

March 2020

ISBN: 9781479800810




Charles Perry is a culinary historian who has written widely on cooking in the medieval Middle East. He has published and consulted on Middle Eastern food history and has translated several pre-modern texts, including A Baghdad Cookery Book: The Book of Dishes.

Claudia Roden is a British cookbook writer and cultural anthropologist. She is a well-known author of Middle Eastern cookbooks, including A Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Delectable recipes from the medieval Middle East

This popular thirteenth-century Syrian cookbook is an ode to what its anonymous author calls the “greater part of the pleasure of this life,” namely the consumption of food and drink, as well as the fragrances that garnish the meals and the diners who enjoy them.

Organized like a meal, Scents and Flavors opens with appetizers and juices and proceeds through main courses, side dishes, and desserts. Apricot beverages, stuffed eggplant, pistachio chicken, coriander stew, melon crepes, and almond pudding are seasoned with nutmeg, rose, cloves, saffron, and the occasional rare ingredient such as ambergris to delight and surprise the banqueter. Bookended by chapters on preparatory perfumes, incenses, medicinal oils, antiperspirant powders, and after-meal hand soaps, this comprehensive culinary journey is a feast for all the senses.

With the exception of a few extant Babylonian and Roman texts, cookbooks did not appear on the world literary scene until Arabic speakers began compiling their recipe collections in the tenth century, peaking in popularity in the thirteenth century. Scents and Flavors quickly became a bestseller during this golden age of cookbooks and remains today a delectable read for cultural historians and epicures alike.

An English-only edition.


  • "We can learn a lot from an old cookbook. And the recent release of Scents and Flavors, a new translation from NYU Press's Library of Arabic Literature, provides a glimpse of social history that feels particularly timely."

  • "The book will interest epicures and cultural historians alike."

    Islamic Horizons

  • "An extraordinary achievement, a brilliant translation of a very important work by an author who really understands cooking, and a valuable addition to our understanding of Middle Eastern culture and gastronomy."

    Claudia Roden, author of The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

  • "An extensive glossary . . . make[s] this a desirable reference work for scholars."


  • "Hopefully, this cookbook can be made part of many library collections around the world, accessible to many Syrian chefs and food-lovers, wherever they may be."

  • "A significant scholarly contribution . . . Presented and framed in a way that renders it accessible to food scholars who work on other regions and cuisines . . . Provides a useful framing of the cookbook in the broader context of Middle Eastern culinary history, medieval Islamic medicine, and the specific sequencing and practices of feasting in thirteenth-century Syria."


  • "A good example of the best that can come out of a combination of quality scholarship and practical experience."

    Journal of the American Oriental Society

  • "Fun for history buffs and amateur chefs, the recipes making for a fantastic dinner party."