My wife lived in Syria and traveled in neighboring nations during her graduate work with a focus in Middle East studies. She really misses the food of that region, so I knew I needed to pick up Soframiz: Vibrant Middle East Recipes from Sofra Bakery and Cafe by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick. After flipping threw it, she concluded that it was heavy on the sweet side and didn’t really highlight the staples of the region. While I can’t speak to the authenticity, it is a book from a US café and two white American women who admittedly present nontraditional recipes inspired by the Middle East. Much of what makes these recipes Middle Eastern must be purchased. It appears that the authors do not provide recipes for basics because they don’t even make them, which is why they provide sources (brands and websites) they recommend. All this makes me wonder why one would need this cookbook for any reason other than attempting to replicate something one tried at their café. I found only four recipes I’ll use from this book (Monk Salad, Pita Bread, Yufka Dough, and Za’atar Bread), all of which are rather basic and easily manipulated to preference.
*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Kenneth E. Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels is a treasure trove of cultural insights on the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ. Bailey pulls together writings, traditions, and perspectives both ancient and contemporary to help us better understand Scripture. Though it is written more for the academic, I would recommend this to anyone wanting a deeper understanding of Scripture. He writes that neither separating “the exact words of Jesus from the careful editing of the Gospel authors” nor authoring a “full-fledged technical commentary” are purposes of this book (20); rather, “My intent is to contribute new perspectives from the Eastern tradition that have rarely, if ever, been considered outside the Arabic-speaking Christian world” (21).
The book is presented in six parts, each worth the reader’s time and energy:
- The Birth of Jesus
- The Beatitudes
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Dramatic Actions of Jesus
- Jesus and Women
- Parables of Jesus
Most people I know read the Bible solely from a Western tradition and perspective heavily influenced by the Enlightenment period, completely unaware of over a millennium’s worth of culture and writings predating those views that have been virtually ignored, often intentionally. Many thanks to Bailey for making some of this more accessible and bringing these things to light.