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Cooks in Ancient Times Whipped Up Dinner Using Recipes!

Marion Charatan

Posted on November 17, 2019 14:00

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Stone tablets unearthed in the 1940s show how our ancestors cooked with recipes the same as we do today.

Something fascinating is brewing from an archeological find: writing on four ancient Babylonian tablets that detail recipes the ancients used to prepare their food. But the artifacts were not recognized as "recipe books" until recently.

An NPR Radio feature highlights researchers from the 1940s who excavated stones from Babylonia that were 4000 years old. Babylonia occupied southeastern Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This region today occupies southern Iraq from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf.

Even in the old Babylonian period, circa 1600 BC, just as today, chefs seemed to understand the importance of a cookbook. The recipes were written in an ancient form of the Akkadian language. This dialect is not fully understood and some of the unearthed words could not be translated.

For instance, the word “Suhutinnu” comes up in just about every Babylonian recipe. From careful discernment and comparison, it seems to be a root vegetable, but it's unknown if that is a carrot or perhaps a turnip.

What is a commonality is that globs of fat were melted in hot vats of water to begin each cooking session and lamb was universally used in this Middle Eastern cooking style. It also seemed that the ancients liked to use a dash of this or that. Researchers confirm there were not instructions for exact measurements on the ingredients.

One recipe that looks interesting is Babylonian Lamb with Licorice and Juniper Berries. It sounds savory and exotic. These recipes have stood the test of time. It can be assumed that camaraderie existed around the dinner table then as it does now.

It appears that eating habits have not changed that significantly over thousands of years. Recipes give a look into the history of food preferences. Tamale, pancakes and even cheesecake have cooking instructions that date back centuries.

Yes, we are different from our ancestors, but we're also similar in many ways. Learning about aspects of the past feels like it connects us to those who came before us.

In the meantime, I want to try out the ancient recipes soon for some modern friends...

Marion Charatan

Posted on November 17, 2019 14:00

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