Eat like the ancients
This BAR feature hopes to introduce you to a new—yet old—kind of cooking. If you have ever wanted to eat like an ancient person, whether Babylonian, Roman, or Syrian, now you can. We’ve tracked down ancient recipes and tried to recreate them using modern ingredients, so that you, too, can enjoy these dishes. Join us on a gastronomical adventure!
Parsnips are an underappreciated vegetable in the U.S. Depending on where you are, they can be difficult to track down, and many Americans have only a vague notion of what a parsnip actually is. In my opinion, though, they are delicious and well worth the hunt.
Eat like an ancient Babylonian with this savory recipe for tah’u stew, which calls for lamb shank, beer, beets, onions, and a number of other vegetables. Discovered on Yale Babylonian Collection Tablet number 4644, the recipe is written in Akkadian and dates to c. 1750 B.C.E. Perhaps you may better appreciate ancient Mesopotamian culture over a bowl of Tah’u Stew.
Next on the menu is a sweet custard from ancient Rome. The recipe comes from the only Roman cookbook that has survived from antiquity, De Re Coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking), written by Apicius—a pseudonym, as Apicius was a nickname for “gourmet.” Made of eggs, honey, and milk, this delicious custard is sure to delight the diner.
For this pastry dish, we journeyed back to the Bronze Age site of Mari, Syria (c. 1775–1761 B.C.E.). Mersu was an ancient type of “cake” that involved mixing flour with a liquid (water, milk, oil, beer, or even butter). Various inclusions (dates, pistachios, figs, raisins, and spices, such as cumin and coriander) were sometimes added. BAR’s variation is sweetened with dates and pistachios. Enjoy!
Biblical Bread: Baking Like the Ancient Israelites by Cynthia Shafer-Elliott
Fruit in the Bible by David Moster
The 10 Strangest Foods in the Bible by David Moster
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