Twelve Thousand Cooks and a Muḥtasib. Some Remarks od Food Business in Medieval Cairo
Lewicka, Paulina B.
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The general aim of this article is to shed some light on the functioning of the industry that was to satisfy the medieval Cairenes’ alimentative needs. As most of the Western travelers who visited Cairo between XIII and XVI centuries observed, the city dwellers generally did not cook at home—they would rather use services offered by cooks in the city streets and bazaars. Indeed, since the majority of the city inhabitants did not have kitchens at their apartments, the easiest way for them—if not the only one—to get a warm meal was to buy ready-made food. Because of the constant and common demand, the offer of public kitchens was fairly rich and assorted enough to satisfy various tastes and meet various financial capabilities of the customers. The quantity of places where ready-made food was being sold night and day was shocking to foreign visitors: the number of street cooks in the city was said to reach ten, twelve, and even twenty thousand.