"Madatolhayat" is one of the few pre-twentieth century Persian culinary sources to have survived. Its author, Nurollah, was the chef to the most renowned king of the Safavid Dynasty, Shah Abbas I (1588-1629). Regarded as one of the greatest monarchs in Persian history, Shah Abbas moved the Safavid capital from Qazvin to Isfahan, reviving its glory and making this ancient city a cosmopolitan center once again by building magnificent architectural edifices, including palaces, mosques, bridges, and boulevards. In fact, Isfahan during his reign acquired the title of "Half the World," and its central square, with its two grand mosques, the Grand Bazaar, and the most important magnificent royal palace, Ali Qapu [the Grand Gate], became a center of government, religion, and commerce and was given the name "the Image of the World." Ali Qapu, a seven-story building, which with the exception of the domes and minarets of the great mosques was the highest building in the city even up to the second half of the twentieth century, was not only the residence of the royal family, but also the place where the king entertained the nobility and foreign emissaries.
In addition to a relatively large number of 16th century royal recipes, Nurollah's manuscript presents to the reader a picture of domestic life in Ali Qapu palace, including not only information about the type of food served but also instances of the king's personal involvement in more mundane tasks, such as cooking and experimenting with food preparation. In Dining at the Safavid Court, M. R. Ghanoonparvar provides us with a translation of Nurollah's culinary treatise, which was presented to his patron, Shah Abbas I, in gratitude for the king's permission to go on an offseason pilgrimage to Mecca, as well as modernized versions of the recipes in The Substance of Life.
This volume is profusely illustrated with color drawings of the Safavid period.