This 4,000-year-old recipe has had a long time to stew

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Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/06/27/this-4000-year-old-recipes.html

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#2

Blood isn’t the thickener in the Broth of Lamb. Milk is. The article suggests substituting blood instead. That’s the only one they said was unpalatable, and if you watch the video, it gets better as it cooks. If the article and video weren’t interesting enough to read and watch fully, why were they interesting enough to blog about?

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#3

Unwinding stew? Broth of lamb? Is it just me or do these sound vaguely medicinal, ala milk of the poppy?

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#4

Did I miss it in the article or did they not actually give the recipes? I’d love to try them.

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#5

Of course they don’t taste all that great, this was long before the spice trade with the Far East, and before all our vegetables like peppers and tomatoes were brought from the New World.

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#6

Then there’s the weird shout out to this:

And not to quibble with the Bulldogs, but the BBC reports that researchers from the University of Wales Institute are claiming a pudding made from nettles, ground barley, and water is actually the world’s oldest recipe, clocking in at 6000 BC. (Serve it with roast hedgehog and fish gut sauce…)

Really?

New research show them among the oldest recipes, dating back more than 8,000 years, and first recorded in 6000 BC.

Uh, bollocks. Nobody was writing 8000 years ago, much less the British, who probably didn’t even see writing until Julius Caesar invaded.

(Checks the date on the article)

Yeah, that was from an absolutely epic period of History Channel-worthy “science” reporting from the BBC.

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#7

I think the research was meant to be a hybrid, not a written recipe such as this. “We have early references to this dish as far as we have writing in Britain, and there’s archaeological evidence to show that it goes this far back” perhaps; the article isn’t very clear on that point.

…Also strange that it complains about garum going out of fashion, worcestershire is nothing but that with a victorian spin :wink:

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#8

I believe the claim is that while the writing of the recipe would have been done in historic times, the dish itself was originally created in prehistoric times going back 8000 years according to archaeological evidence.

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#9

I can do a lot with thyme and salt for seasoning. But other things like black pepper and garlic (asia) are kind of necessary for my own turnip and lamb stew recipe. But by the first century A.D. these would have been available to the affluent in Rome. (and common in old Roman cookbooks)

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#10

“I wanna Happy Meal!”

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#11

Food is medicine.

#12

I can’t parse this sentence, it seems to say that the recipes don’t taste bad, but the following sentence seems to contradict this again…

Babylon was in the middle East right? Wouldn’t they have had access to more spices earlier then Europe?

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#13

The article said:

the Yale team has yet to share its recipes in a language other than cuneiform

shame.

As an aside, Scottish & Newcastle brewers sold a limited edition of beer made to a 3500-year old Egyptian recipe in the 1990s.

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#14

The real lesson is that even back then, cooks did not reveal all of their secrets. It’s times like this that I miss Anthony Bourdain, who first hammered this lesson into my skull.

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#15

I don’t think cooks are keeping secrets. The trouble with any recipe is that you have variable ingredients. Go back in time, and you may don’t have any good idea of how hot your oven should be. Weights and measures become very local. Elizabeth Ayrton in “The Cookery of England” recalled a recipe book from a large house in the North of England where the recipes mentioned weights in stones, which weren’t 14 lb units, but a particular stone they had in the kitchen as a door-stop. Go back even further, and the cook can’t write, so they have to explain what they are doing to some scribe who probably cannot cook at all.

There are two things you can do. You can follow the instructions exactly, and end up with something that tastes funny to us (but may not taste bad to Ancient Greeks who added turpentine oil to their wine); or make plausible variations on the recipe until you find something that works. Unless you can analyse some leftover food (and why was it left?) then you don’t know. The best you can do is come up with something that they might have done with the resources they had at the time.

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#16

Good point, but I think the spice trade didn’t really flourish until about 1000 years after these recipes were etched in clay tablets. The Middle East would have been getting stuff like cinnamon and cloves from Southeast Asia long before Europe, but still no hot peppers or paprika from the Americas (what we tend to think of as “spicy.”)

I think garlic and onions are native to Asia so were probably around at the time. But the modern world is really spoiled when it comes to a lot of things. Even if onions and garlic were around it’s unclear just how readily available they were, and may have been luxuries even in Babylon.

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#17

Whenever I see someone recreating a recipe more than a couple of hundred years old, I can’t help but be reminded that vegetables have changed and awful lot over the ages and I wonder if it’s really possible to taste what they ancients tasted.

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#18

one of Lassen’s predecessors, Professor William W. Hallo, told The New York Times in 1988, it’s unlikely the average Mesopotamian would have had the opportunity to tuck into any of these dishes. The vast quantities of speciality ingredients and the elaborate instructions suggest a festive meal for the elite.

If the dining habits of the ancient elite were similar to those of today, I would expect the food to be more about proclaiming status than about flavor, and to require the cultivation of acquired tastes.

True, and nước mắm is pretty much garum, and there’s a fermented anchovy sauce called colatura di alici sold in Italy today that was apparently recreated directly from Roman garum recipes by medieval monks.

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#19

They’re missing the cover tablet, which says “Never cook these!”

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#20

Food is a drug – the most addictive drug ever – the rush gives great pleasure – withdrawal invariably causes death.

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