About me

Shermin Arif

Hi. I’m Shermin.
I live in Berlin, Germany, as a freelance editor, texter and blogger.

I’m working as a foodblogger for over 10 years now (have a look at my main foodblog in german language “Der magische Kessel“) and all that time I had a deep love for historic recipes.

I made my master’s degree at the University Duisburg-Essen in German Studies (German literature and linguistics) with politics and history as minor subjects. Due to bureaucracy rules I studied “Neuere Geschichte” (everything from 1500 on) and newer literature, but went regardless to seminars about earlier history and medieval studies. To translate and interpret medieval manuscripts
And I remember lively my first history course, which was about the Cena Trimalchionis. My mother had this book in her bookshelf and I used this old copy. I loved this seminar – I learned so much about the Roman society and how the people lived, how they cooked and what they ate. I concluded my seminar paper with a modernised version of one of Aspicius recipes. At this point I only thought about it as a nice touch, a small addition. In hindsight this was the first intentional step in the direction of food archaeology. (I didn’t knew at this point, that I had been cooking for years after an Arabic cookbook, which saw it’s roots in medieval Arabic cookbooks. It was a present I got as a child and I read the introduction with 12 and then never again – till I was 40 and began to wonder during my research. 😅)

Spice blend for medieval meatballs

For the last years I researched recipes and techniques mostly for fun (like reading in an encyclopedia as a kid just for the hunger for knowledge and the love of learning), myself and my hobby as an reenactress. But this content seldom found it’s way into my official foodblog. I didn’t really thought about giving it more room in my online life. (We have a saying in Germany: “Manchmal sieht man den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht” 😅 /Not to see the wood for the trees.)

Due to this ongoing pandemic I joined some online-workshops this year. At the same time I thought about which way I want my life to take for the next years. Which work would really satisfy and fill my soul.

The answer was simple: To have more time for all my research. I’m in love with history and I’m deep into crafting (pottery, spinning, sewing, stitching, jewellery…), but my real passion is cooking and baking. Tastes and scents are so much connected with memories and experiences. And to eat and taste something, that was cooked similar a few hundred or thousands of years ago is just the real living history thingie for me. My focus lies mainly on Islamic/Arabic medieval cooking and everything around it. But I don’t want to limit me. It’s just: I live in Germany and despite the manifold interrelations between Orient and Occident in previous centuries most people – from reenactors to scholarship – have a really eurocentric view on history. I often read or hear something like “There were no real cookbooks before [insert some high or late medieval date in Europe]” which is obviously wrong.
Because: of course there were recipe books before. I mean, there were cooking contests running in the Arabic high society centuries before this. For nobles it was fancy to have their own collection of recipes. And before this there was Apicius (1st century AD). And before this, there were persons in Babylon (as in 4000 years ago) who wrote down their recipes in cuneiform inscription on clay tablets. You get my drift? 😉

So recently I opened a new instagram account named “Theophanu’s Cauldron” especially dedicated to historic recipes and cooking. After a few weeks I saw that I also needed a blog for longer articles, recipes and maybe tutorials. So here I am. You’re welcome to join my journey to historic food and craftmanship. Come along with me to some adventures and treasure hunting!

Shermin Arif