Recipes

We have cuneiform recipes from Assyria and Babylonia, and some poems which describe disgusting parodies of fine dining. Armies included cooks and bakers, and generals brought couches and fine drinking vessels and other things for the civilized life.

  • Yale Culinary Texts: Jean Bottéro, Textes culinaires mésopotamiens / Mesopotamian culinary texts (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995)

… Persian royal banquet in one of the collections of miscellaneous anecdotes (and the modern banquets inspired by it! Elizabeth Dusinberry tried one) …
Polyaenus IV.3.32 = Kuhrt, The Persian Empire, no. 12.D.39/pages 604-607
Athenaeus IV.26 = Kuhrt, The Persian Empire no. 12.D.42/pages 610-611
R.B. Stevenson, Persica: Greek Writing about Persia in the Fourth Century BC (Edinburgh 1997) pp. 144-152

Wouter F. M. Henkelman, “Consumed Before the King, the Table of Darius,” in Der Achämenidenhof = The Achaemenid Court, Classica et Orientalia 2 (Wiesbaden, 2010), pp. 676–697
News & Notes issue 237 Eating in the Ancient Near East

There are also some Near Eastern cookbooks from the 10th century onwards. These are closer in time to us than to the armies at Plataea, but they are before the Columbian Exchange which transformed diets across Eurasia. Barbara Santich points out that salt, coriander, and cumin which are available in the Meditteranean were already the basic spices in Apicius’ cookbook in the first century CE (The Original Mediterranean Cuisine p. 19, 31). And cumin is one of the many Semitic words in classical Greek.

  • ‘Anahita’, Some Extant Medieval Near and Middle Eastern Cookbooks
  • The (13th century CE) Kitâb al Tabîkh: translated as A.J. Arberry, “A Baghdad Cookery Book” (Islamic Culture 13 [1939] pp. 21-47, 184-214): reprinted by Prospect Books 2001 in Medieval Arab Cookery) and Charles Perry, A Baghdad Cookery Book Petits Propos Culinaires 79, (Prospect Books, 2005)
  • David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook, How to Milk an Almond, Stuff an Egg, And Armor a Turnip: A Thousand Years of Recipes (self-published PDF, 2011) http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/To_Milk_an_Almond.pdf {some recipes from the Baghdad cookery book, Apicius, and a 6th century CE writer plus practical advice on interpretation}

Talking to your Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan friends might not be a bad idea! They and their parents and grandparents know modern cuisine and modern dietary laws, but fat-tailed sheep are still fat-tailed sheep.

For Greek food, you might start with histories of medieval cooking such as Barbara Santich’s The Original Mediterranean Cuisine as well as Courtesans and Fish-Cakes. The medievalists tell you which parts of the cuisine in 13th century and later manuscripts seem to reflect Arab influence, the others might be a place to start reconstructing Iron Age habits. Its possible that livestock were not butchered and divided into different kinds of meat, just slaughtered, cleaned, and cut into portions to be given out at random.

… E.J. Kennedy, The Plowman’s Lunch: Moretum, A Poem Ascribed to Virgil (Bristol Classical Press: Bristol, 1984)
Apicius
Daniel Potts, “On Salt and Salt Gathering in Ancient Mesopotamia,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 27, No. 3 (1984), pp. 225-271
Theophrastus Historia Plantarum 7-9 on greens, spices, and seasonings available in Aristotle’s day: …

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