Cooking meat the Salernitan way

More from Ishaq b. Sulaiman al-Israili via Constantinus Africanus

Whoever wishes to prepare meats whose humors are illaudible such as meats of excessive fatness, it is well if they are strewn with much salt and placed by the fire for long, for thus their illaudible humidity is consumed. But meats of laudable humidity such are meats of middling animals that are bare of fatness (crassitie vel pinguedine), should be roasted on a fire that is not strong nor long left by the fire, lest their laudable humidity be consumed.


It is not good to eat fat meat unless it has been roasted with much salt over the coals of the fire so that first their humidity may be dried out.

The Ancients taught that no lean meat should be eaten unless it was boiled. … Meats cooked in sauces/broths (iusculis) take a middle position between them (boiled and roasted) because they are moistened by the water, but dried by the spices. Therefore no meat should be cooked in sauces unless it is of animals of middling kind between lean and fat, or are stripped of their fat. The sauces, if they are laudable, preserve their laudable humidity. But there are many ways of cooking meats in sauces according to their spices being diverse. There are condiments that preserve the meats in their natural goodness and others that lead them away from their nature. For they are seasoned with water, salt, oil, coriander, onions and cumin, and also with vinegar, obsomagarum (probably murri, a fermented sauce), wine and sharp miripsium (spice mix) and also with juice of sour grapes, with the juice of lemons (pomi citrini) and pomegranates. Those that are seasoned with water, salt, oil, coriander, onions and cumin and boiled have their humidity conserved like boiled meats while those that are cooked with vinegar, obsomagarum, wine and sour miripsium are similar in heat and dryness to fried meats. The temperate ones are in the middle between them. But if meats are prepared with vinegar and sugar and juice of apples, they are tempered between heat and cold, dryness and humidity. And those with sour grapes or juice of lemons or sour pomegranates are colder and drier and comfort the stomach more.


Those that are prepared with vinegar, obsomagarum, wine and sharp mirispsium are hotter and close to those fried with sharp miripsium. It is needful to prepare all meats according to what is appropriate. We say that some animals are dry, some are moist, some are cold and some hot. Those that are naturally dry and lean are boiled with water and salt, or prepared with water, salt, oil, coriander, wine, and onions so that their dryness is tempered by art. Those that are naturally moist are roasted or fried or prepared with oil and miripsium so that their humidity is tempered and dried, more so if they are fat. Those that are naturally hot are prepared with sour grapes, lemon juice or the juice of sour pomegranates and the shoots of purslane, and if their nature approaches the dry, with vinegar and the juice of squashes, cucumbers (means a type of gourd), bitter oranges, coriander, lettuce, and similar things that temper their heat. Those that are naturally cold are tempered with the juice of mint, celery, or rue, obsomagarum, hot miripsium and wine, this must be observed. Or they are prepared with vinegar, sugar, apple juice, rosewater, fresh and dried coriander, small onions, saffron and a little pepper, or with the juice of sweet pomegranates, or with apple juice or rosewater. Meats are to be served according to their kind, if they be hot, with juice or vinegar of sour pomegranates, if they are cold, with obsomagarum, wine, rue, celery, mint, lemon leaves, ginger and long pepper. If they loosen the belly, they should be served roasted or prepared with fragrant wine. And if their kind is temperate as we have said they can be through art, they are to be served thus tempered.

(marginalia: Miripsium is a seasoning composed of aromatics (i.e. a spice mix))

p. 189 ff

Again, this is no recipe, but the combinations are surely worth trying out. Mind, preparing some of them would require a fuilly stocked garden in the style of the Islamic Agricultural Revolution, but around Palermo, you got those. I discussed obsomagarum in yesterday’s post, and there will be a little more about what miripsium is later. The printer can’t really settle on a declension for that word, but he was kind enough to insert an explanation in the margins.

Isaac Iudaeus de diaetis univeralibus et particularibus, originally written in Arabic in the late ninth or early tenth century, was translated and adapted by Constantinus Africanus in the late 11th century and circulated widely in Italy and beyond soon afterwards. While the original applies to a different context, it is still reasonable to use it as a guide to the advice that Siculo-Normans would have found useful. It is an open question how much the original was altered in translation – I cannot say since I read no Arabic. However, the extensive reference to eating pork suggests that some alterations took place.

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