A Feast for the First Christmas

At this time of year when cuisine blogs are awash with recipes for cookies and roast beast for the Christmas feast, I thought it would be a nice idea to create a notional menu for what the first Christmas feast might actually be like. In truth, that concept was brought to me by a writer from Bon Appetit magazine who wrote a great short piece … Read more

Keeping Christmas Real

Every now and then around this time of year I post one of my photographs of a woman and her child to remind myself of the holy family’s humanity. The emphasis on divinity and religious iconography in the two-thousand or so years since the holy family walked the earth has a tendency to eclipse the reality of who they were. They were poor. For a … Read more

Happy Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Yesterday was the first day of – Diwali – The Festival of Lights for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs around the world. This means that for the past few weeks, women have been working overtime in kitchens throughout the subcontinent and diaspora communities to prepare traditional foods for the five-day long celebration. Many things are celebrated on Diwali, but the overarching reason for the holiday for … Read more

Lamb in a Pomegranate-Cardamom Sauce

With the autumn holidays rapidly approaching many of us are starting to give thought to what to prepare. A delicious main-course for omnivores is my Lamb in a Pomegranate-Cardamom Sauce pictured below. It is an original recipe based on Azeri/Iranian Fesenjan that is the best one-pot meal in town. Tender, juicy lamb is braised in a mouth-watering sweet and sour sauce that is served on … Read more

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For this was on seynt Volantynys day Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make. It’s all Chaucer’s fault! He was the first major writer to begin associating Valentine’s Day with romantic love as seen in the passage above from The Parlement of Foules, written in 1382 to honor the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. His seasonal reference … Read more

Ye Ga’nna Ba-al (Merry Ethiopian Christmas)

“It comes without ribbons. It comes without tags. It comes without packages, boxes or bags. . .” Christianity arrived in North Africa in the first or second century, coming first to Alexandria – the great melting pot of culture and scholarship. From there, it spread across North Africa and down the coastal cities to the east until it reached Ethiopia and was adopted as the … Read more

1001 Tales from the Spice Trade: Cinnamon

We take so much for granted these days.  Almost every household cupboard has ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks in them.  Mass produced cinnamon is cheap and readily available at almost every market and even higher quality cinnamon sticks from the far reaches of the globe are accessible and relatively affordable via the internet.   In times past, however, spices were rare and expensive and significant portions … Read more

Shizi, Singh, Gangs Sengemo – A Lion by Any Other Name

Skilled dancers from Xiiang, Persian masks and lion masks. The heads are carved of wood, The tails are woven with thread. Pupils are flecked with gold And teeth capped with silver. They wave fur costumes And flap their ears As if from across the drifting sands Ten thousand miles away… – Bo Juyi, 9th Century   With Chinese New Year, rapidly approaching, a post about … Read more

Hail Mary!

In sorting through my old photographs recently, I was struck by this one and its timeliness – even though I snapped it more than a decade ago. Although completely unposed, the graceful curve of the neck, the adoration of the child by the mother, and the child’s alert but peaceful gaze at the viewer reminded me of dozens of European Renaissance paintings I’ve seen of … Read more

Ramadan Kareem

The time of Ramadan is almost upon us once again. Since so many of the land and maritime routes of the Silk Road ran through predominantly Muslim countries, and since Muslim traders played such an important role in moving the goods and ideas around that led to a globalization of the ancient world, I wanted to take a moment to explain the holiday to non-Muslims … Read more

Welcoming the Year of the Ox

With a loud drumroll and a crash of cymbals the two enormous lions careened up the marble stairway, and paused to survey the lay of the land before continuing into the courtyard. One golden like the summer sun, the other as black as a new moon night. Both bedecked with mirrors and a single horn in the middle of their foreheads, they looked left and … Read more

Silent Passage

The overcast sky moved quickly over the frozen earth as the end of another year slipped silently away. Films were run, one-by-one the kids played with their new games and toys and we all read lots of books. The past few days have been a delight of relaxing by the multi-colored fire of the decorated tree as our ambitious plans for entertaining and visiting local … Read more

Christmas in India

Trees adorned with lights, candles and lamps in the window, strings of paper lanterns cut into intricate patterns – all around the world, Christmas is one of the many human holidays that celebrates the return of light to the world. For Christians this light is believed to be God’s light as witnessed in the birth of Jesus. In pre-Islamic Egypt, Osiris died and was reborn … Read more

A Silk Road Gourmet Thanksgiving

With the US’s Thanksgiving Day rapidly approaching, I thought I’d offer a few recipes from the first volume of The Silk Road Gourmet to help you blend Silk Road cookery with traditional fare for the holiday feast. The first recipe and centerpiece of the meal is to be found in Iran’s wonderful Lamb with Cardamom and Pomegranate Sauce. It is an original recipe based on … Read more