That's what a lot of people think today (at least outside India and the Near East). But until about 200 years ago, even European cooks often threw rose water into drinks, desserts, and even some meat dishes. (And why not? If somebody wears rose-scented perfume at dinner, do we cry, "Eeoo! Yucko!"?)

In places such as India, Indonesia and East Africa, rose water appears in the local cuisines even where roses don't grow. In fact, many local languages use the Arabic word for rose water ( ma ward ) as the word for roses themselves, since rose water is the only form of roses they've ever known.

The Tunisians have their own way out of the problem. They flavor their baklavas with a variety of geranium whose flowers smell like roses.

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