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Pacific Taste: What to Order in 13th-Century Granada

  • Los Angeles Public Library - Central Branch 630 W. Fifth St. Los Angeles, CA 90071 (map)

Presented by Culinary Historians of Southern California


In the early Middle Ages, dynastic conflict led to the founding of a new Caliphate in Spain, rivaling the one in Baghdad. It needed an appropriately grand court cuisine, of course, and over the centuries it developed one. Charles Perry guides attendees through the medieval Moorish menu.

Partly it was based on medieval Persian cuisine, but the Moorish Arabs were exposed to new influences—Berber, Spanish, Jewish and even northern European—and as a result, Spain and North Africa became a hothouse of invention. Eventually, the Berbers contributed couscous, and the Spanish were involved in the invention of puff pastry. Medieval Moorish cookbooks give a number of Jewish recipes—many of them, interestingly, featuring chicken livers—and even some dishes of the European slaves (saqaliba) held by the Moors.

The Moors were the only people in the Near East who served banquets in courses, rather than setting out all the food at once. (One cookbook sniffily said, “By my life, this is more beautiful than putting an uneaten mound all on the table, and it is more elegant, better-bred, and modern.”) They were also the only people in this part of the world who regularly made large pies, rather than little samosa-like pastries, and they were obsessed with topping every possible dish with eggs. Every possible dish.

On top of that, a number of new dishes were invented, including Wrists, The Monkey’s Head, and The Bucket, were invented.

Free Admission. A reception with themed refreshments will follow the talk at approximately 11:30 AM. More information available here

Due to subway construction, the main entrance to the Library might be closed. If so, please enter on Grand, past the loading dock.


Charles Perry majored in Middle East Studies at Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley, and spent a year at the Middle East Centre for Arab Studies in Shimlan, Lebanon. Thereafter he pursued a career as a writer, serving as an editor and staff writer at Rolling Stone Magazine 1968-1976 and the Los Angeles Times 1990-2008. He is p

President and Co-Founder of the Culinary Historians of Southern California.  

He has translated three 13th-century books on the cuisine of the eastern Arab world, including Scents and Savors: A Syrian Cookbook (NYU Press, 2017). His translation of a 13th-century Moorish cookbook is available on-line at


Pacific Taste is an ongoing series of culinary talks and workshops hosted by the Pacific Food & Beverage Museum in venues across Southern California. Research Fellow Linda Civitello, Curator Richard FossChef Ernest Miller, and others deliver lively lectures and lead hands-on workshops demonstrating the rich culinary traditions and distinctive cuisines of the Pacific Coast and American West.