Ancient Recipes?


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Ancient Recipes?

Abr 4, 2007, 4:19 pm

I hope you foodies don't mind me intruding but I have a question I think might easily be answered here. My son has recently become very interested in various periods of history. I was wondering if any of you knew of cookbooks that would have modernized ancient recipes (Roman, Greek, Mongolian even!) I could try to make for him. I'm not much of a cook at all, but I am so excited that he is beginning to share my love of history that I really want to keep him interested. Thanks!

Abr 4, 2007, 4:32 pm

Jeff Smith has published The Frugal Gourmet Cooks 3 Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece and Rome.

Abr 4, 2007, 4:38 pm

That's great! I grew up watching Jeff Smith and he's still my favorite TV chef guy! Thanks!

Editado: Abr 4, 2007, 4:50 pm

If you are looking for a general overview, then The British Museum Cookbook by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson is absolutely the best. It is quite accurate, making justifiable assumptions where documentation isn't available. It covers Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Imperial Rome, Pre-Conquest Mexico, Ancient Persia, Anglo-Saxon Britain, Medieval Europe, Renaissance Italy, Georgian England and Imperial China. The recipes are clear and easy to follow (and really fun!) and should be just fine for your boy.

Abr 4, 2007, 5:07 pm

That sounds wonderful!

Abr 5, 2007, 8:44 am

Meat....on a stick....over a fire...

hehe sorry just couldn't resist :) Happy hunting! Now off to check out the brit museum book......

Abr 5, 2007, 9:20 am

Meat....on a stick....over a fire...

Once the weather warms up here. ;)

Abr 5, 2007, 9:38 am

I have to echo support for Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, though I only have one old cookbook of his and have never seen his show, all the recipes I've tried from it have come out great, including one that I'd consider "ancient" (and very healthy), since it is basically a lentil pottage, which people say was what the Biblical grandson of Abraham, Esau traded his first-born birthright to his brother Jacob (later renamed Israel). This one has chicken in it though (and I serve it with an pasta w/tomatoes & spinach side):

"Chicken and Lentils Middle Eastern Style"
2 cups lentils; Salt to taste; 2 cloves garlic (crushed); 1 bay leaf; 2 teaspoons oregano; 1 teasoon dill weed, dried; 4 Tbs fresh lemon juice; 1 3-pound frying chicken (cup up and pan browned); 1/2 cup fresh-grated Parmesan or Romano chees; 2 cups plain yogurt
1. Soak lentils in 8 cups water in bowl for 5-6 hours;2. Place lentils w/the water in a pot w/the salt, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, and dill weed, and Simmer for about 1 hour, covered, til tender not mushy; 3. Add the lemon juice to the lentil mixture. 4. Place the chicken pieces in a casserole and pour the lentil mixture over them, and Top with the cheese, and Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for about 1 hr 15 min. (Might need to add extra water during baking.); 6. Top w/yogurt before serving.
Smith suggests serving w/a crunchy bread, Spinach Salad, and a heavy red wine.

Abr 5, 2007, 2:57 pm

Just saw in Reader's Digest: Cooking With the Bible, I have no idea what it's like though, but it sounds interesting.

Abr 5, 2007, 9:56 pm

I can't remember where I found this recipe, but there's a great recipe for Beef and Potato stew from La Mancha. Yummmy, Beef and Potatoes.


½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lrg green bell peppers, seeded & sliced
1 med onion, sliced and separated into rings
6 lrg garlic cloves, finely chopped
2¼ lb boneless stew beef
1¾ lb potatoes, peeled & cut into 1 ½ in chunks
1 tbsp salt
1 teasp black pepper
¼ teasp ground cloves
1 bay leaf
pinch saffron
1 cup dry white wine


Put olive oil, onion, garlic, & beef in step pot in that order.

Layer potatoes on top of beef.

Add salt, pepper, cloves, bay leaf, and saffron.

Pour wine over and add water to cover.

Abr 6, 2007, 2:33 am

If she is looking for ancient foods, potatoes are right out, though. A huge problem with 'ancient' cookbooks is that alot of the time the authors are just writing what sounds good, without doing any serious research. Archaeology can tell us what they ate, and from there possible combinations and recipes can be worked out. Literature can also help. that's why I'm so skeptical about normal cookbook writers who write 'historical' cookbooks! I've found its best to stick to museum publications or authors who specialise in historical cooking.
*gets off soapbox, bows* :-)

Abr 6, 2007, 2:23 pm

#11 - I agree, that made me skeptical of the cookbook from the Bible that I mentioned. I like to research, find the plants, herbs, etc. which were available at the time and create my own recipes with those. Mead, anyone?

I went to a restaurant which purportedly served medieval food, but the ingredients were all wrong. However, they had a killer mead sampler with about 11 different kinds of mead to taste.

Abr 6, 2007, 2:54 pm

I'm lucky, I do medieval reenactment and have a few friends who specialise in medieval cooking, and a few who do nothing but brew mead. It's hard being me, sometimes :-) There are a ton of historical (medieval and otherwise) cookbooks online at
by the way. Make sure you have a few hours to kill before looking at it,'ll suck you in!

Abr 6, 2007, 5:13 pm

wow I should try that!#13

Editado: Abr 7, 2007, 3:49 pm

I like thousand eggs. Also another fav site, They have published their first cookbook, "A Boke of Gode Cookery: Volume 1". Like te they also have extensive web ring connections. Take a look.

Abr 8, 2007, 1:15 am

>13 jenknox: I tried your link and got an error message "the page you requested is unavailable".

Are there THAT many LT'ers like me who coudn't resist going there, even with your "prepare to be sucked in for several hours" warning?

Abr 8, 2007, 5:04 am

Ok, lets try again :-)

now it should work

Abr 8, 2007, 8:26 am

>,13,15,17: Of course I looked!!! But I've got to go to church now!!! I'm late because of all these new leads.

Thanks, I think.

Abr 8, 2007, 9:34 am

I saw a picture in the newspaper a few days ago about someone trying to cook pigs' ears from an old recipe book. Apparently they couldn't face the result. I can't trace the reference but I think it must have been to Eliza Smith who published "The Compleat (sic) Housewife ........" in 1742 and a volume is up for sale. The London Times had a story about the book which is here:

Abr 8, 2007, 5:17 pm

I've been reading The Illustrated Herb Encyclopedia by Kathi Keville. It is not only lovely, but has all sorts of ancient culinary and medicinal uses for herbs, as well as practical uses (pest control, dyes, etc.) It's great to find out that all these herbs I love cooking with are very beneficial as well. Her sources for the ancient things are written mostly by medieval herbalists and such.

Abr 8, 2007, 6:47 pm

#17: Thanks for the correct web address for ancient cookbooks. I found the website and what a cornucopia of books. I could spend all my time there watching them stew doves, etc. It's amazing. Isn't the internet heaven? How did we ever live without it?

Abr 10, 2007, 6:13 am

#12 There are different kinds of mead?! Where have I been living all these years that I thought there was just Mead.

Where do I het to try different sorts of mead! Its hard enough to find just as it is!

Abr 10, 2007, 6:32 am

There are many, many kinds of mead. Usually it is brewed with different kinds of fruit as well as the honey (raspberry, blueberry, etc). Also, the kind of honey you use completely changes the taste of the mead (orange blossom mead, pine honey mead, etc). There are some good recipes online if you search for medieval, mead, recipe. Where do you live? In Germany it's not so difficult to find, but the homemade mead is far, far, *far* better than the storebought stuff. If you don't want to make it, outside of joining a Medieval reenactment group, I'm not sure where you can buy it.

Abr 10, 2007, 8:40 am

#22 - if your ever traveling in the eastern US (specifically NYS), there is a fabulous meadery. It is located in the finger lakes region in western NY, it is on Lake Seneca and for the life of me the name eludes me. They make wonderful stuff though.

Yay for the internet! hehe here is a link to their website: Earle Estates Meadery Where memory fails, google saves me.

Abr 11, 2007, 4:04 am

Thanks for all the links!. I'm in the UK, I'm sure its just a matter of looking hard enough here - now that I know to look!

Abr 11, 2007, 7:33 am

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

Abr 11, 2007, 9:11 am

Wow! Thanks for such a great response. There are so many great ideas here!

>8 EncompassedRunner: One of the very few cookbooks I own is a Frugal Gourmet, and there's a recipe for "Esau's Pottage" in it!

>11 jenknox:, 27 Potatoes (and tomatoes) are absolutely appropriate. After all, I live in Indiana, Land of the Indians. My son seems mostly interested in civilizations that had a warrior culture, especially ones that used archers in warfare (isn't that just like 10 year old boy?). So I think a night of various Native American cuisines would be interesting for him.

Abr 11, 2007, 3:00 pm

Actually, potatoes were *not* eaten by North American native Americans. Potatos were cultivated in the Andes. So if he were to make ancient food from the Andes region it would be fine, but they didn't come to North America until *much* later.

Here are some potato history websites:

Abr 11, 2007, 3:18 pm

>29 jenknox: Right. That's why I said "various Native American cuisines". It's doubtful I'll find any of the short, stubby ears of corn that eventually worked their way north from Mesoamerica to become what most people think of as maize or Indian corn, either. But he's only ten and I am by no means even remotely a good cook, so we're just going to have fun and probably burn some food.

Abr 11, 2007, 4:16 pm

Abr 12, 2007, 5:32 pm

fleela - My son was interested in warriors and cooking, so I had him research the various regions of Native Americans in the United States. He came up with an appetizer tray for Thanksgiving one year with a food or two from each region, I can't remember how many there were now, 8-10 I think. He also made a representative craft and gave a presentation while everyone enjoyed their snacks. I wish I could remember what they all were, but dried meat, cranberries and pine nuts were a few. We skipped the whale blubber, though my children did get a chance to taste it through a relative of ours who is of Inuit descent. That's one reason we skipped it, it is an acquired taste.

Editado: Abr 12, 2007, 5:57 pm

Re: mead

They sell it here (Seattle) in the supermarket. It comes in sweet, semi-sweet and dry varieties. Moreover, not long ago, mead was one of the offerings at a local Farmers Market vintner's booth.

I tried pigs ear tapas once; they were pretty much all cartiledge - ugh.

Editado: Abr 14, 2007, 3:22 pm

>25 evedeve: I've been to that Mead brewery many times! It's a must when we do our winery tour through the fingerlakes!
Last time I went was a blustery weekend and they'd had so little traffic, we got chatting and ended up sampling every mead they made. Wonderful. Thank goodness for designated drivers!

Oh forgot to mention:
I just found a book with old (not quite ancient) recipes of how Italian cuisine changed after Christopher Columbus brought back foods from the New World.
Columbus Menu: Italian Cuisine after the First Voyage of Christopher Columbus by Stefano Milioni
Each chapter is about one newly introduced ingredient and several early reicpes of it being incorporated into Italian cuisine and moving forward through history by recipes up to what is now modern cuisine using these New World ingredients.

'Chapters': Tomato, Potato, Corn (Maize), Greens and Beans, Squashes, Hot and Sweet Peppers, and Cacao.

Let me know if any interest you and I'll email or post recipes here.

Abr 14, 2007, 4:31 pm

Here are a few classical cookbooks that I familiar with: The Philosopher's Kitchen: Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook (I own this one but have yet to try a recipe), Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome, Cooking in Ancient Civilizations, and Food, Cookery, and Dining in Ancient Times: Alexis Soyer's Pantropheon which is a reprint of a french text from around 1850...I think it may include stories and recipes from roman soldiers.

Just a note on a good resource for historical cookbooks, you must physically visit the beautifully ornate New York Academy of Medicine ( in NYC. The building is designed by the same architect who designed the Library of Congress. The rare & historical collection includes cookbooks! The library is free to all.

Abr 18, 2007, 2:06 pm

Fleela -

Sometimes, novels are a source of food information about old cultures. Kabloona offers vivid descriptions of the eating styles and food procurement and storage habits of the Inuit of Canada. Like Water for Chocolate has many exotic ancient Mexican recipes with descriptions on preparing the foods.

I have a cookbook, not at hand while I'm typing, from the Memmonites, who try to eat as Biblicly as possible, as an add to that discussion.

Abr 20, 2007, 9:52 pm

You could try The Pharaohs Feast by Rivera. It's great, and you could probably jiggle some of the recipes to make them today!

Abr 22, 2007, 5:30 pm

On a trip to Ireland a few years ago I picked up a copy of a tiny little book called Real Irish Cookery. I wouldn't classify it ancient per se, but it is interesting! Ingredients include Carragreen Moss (a type of seaweed), nettles, and assorted animal parts I would never dream of eating, but more power to those who do!

Editado: Maio 24, 2007, 5:09 pm

If your son is interested in Medieval Cuisine of the Islamic World: A Concise History with 174 Recipes (California Studies in Food and Culture) at (unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a touchstone for the book, even though it is listed on this site...). I think the recipes draw on a 9th/10th century cookbook from Baghdad, so I think it is pretty authentic, rather than just conjecture. It comes out in October 2007.

There is also the Jane Austen Cookbook, which I keep meaning to get, if he is interested in something more recent. The author, Maggie Black seems to have a number of historical cookbooks.

Ago 9, 2007, 5:33 pm

I'm going to bump this thread with a cookbook that we have used at home:

A taste of Ancient Rome (I can recall one disastrous attempt by my fiance to make garum, but then he made this dish with chickpeas for Easter dinner that everyone raved about.)

Set 16, 2007, 4:19 pm

Following on (more or less) from #1, I'm told that ancient Indian and Chinese cookbooks (+- the same period as Apicius the Roman) exist. Are there any workable English translations / adaptations of these?

Jan 4, 2022, 5:57 pm

I realize this message board is very old but I am reading old messages. My library has books they remove from the shelves. There is a donation next to the books they have in the lobby area with books no longer for check-out.
Yesterday, I got The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas, The History of the Season's Traditions, With Recipes For the Feast by Jeff Smith.
I used to watch him on TV.

Jan 4, 2022, 7:33 pm

>42 mnleona: I love when old threads are revived. :)

Jun 18, 2022, 9:46 pm

Regarding the cookbook author Jeff Smith, I saw a notice somewhere that Mr. Smith had died some years ago of heart disease. I have two of his cookbooks that collected recipes from different cultures, but he did love high-fat recipes. Luckily, there are fairly straightforward ways to reduce the use of fats and oils in some of those recipes. But with meat recipes, making them healthier does get harder. Chicken, for example, averages about 50% calories from fat.

I agree with JenKnox about the proliferation of dubious "historical" cookbooks. In many ancient cultures, meat was a small portion of most meals. Most authentic ancient lentil recipes use lentils as a meat replacer, so "chicken with lentils" mentioned above already sounds completely changed for a modern audience. Be especially careful with "historical" cookbooks focused on North America, unless the author has academic training and experience.

Jun 19, 2022, 7:42 am

>44 MaureenRoy: Reminds me of Philip Harben, Britain's first TV celebrity chef back in the 1950s and also rumoured to have died of heart disease due to injudicious diet, though his Wikipedia page makes no mention of this.

The Jane Austen Cookbook mentioned above is an interesting read, as is The Medieval Cookbook, also by Maggie Black. I've cooked successful recipes from both, though not often.

Jun 19, 2022, 9:19 am

Adelle Davis who wrote about healthy cooking and eating in the 40s and 50s died of cancer at age 70.

Ago 30, 2022, 7:35 am

>44 MaureenRoy: I used to enjoy watching The Frugal Gourmet on PBS. I have several of his cookbooks in my collection.

Mar 28, 9:06 am

Not ancient, but less removed from ancient than the way we handle foods nowadays, I found plates from the 1907 USDA Yearbook for the article “Changes Taking Place in Chickens in Cold Storage.”

I have no idea why they would want to store them that long. But it’s the size of the bird that struck me. The best use would be as a base for soup. Not much meat.

Ago 28, 11:28 pm

Chickens in cold storage? That reminds me of the medical doctor's comment when someone showed him a frozen turkey stored in their freezer for six months, riddled with some sort of mold by that point: "Freezing slows down food decay, but does not stop it."

The only natural foods I store in the freezer are organic natto from JapanTown in downtown Los Angeles, organic tempeh, edamame, + organic peas, corn + blueberries.. The price we pay for frozen fruits + vegetables is the loss of vitamin E/folate/folic acid, which is mostly destroyed by freezing.