New Flavors for the World’s Oldest Recipes

I am pleased to share with you my new article on ancient Mesopotamian cuisine entitled, “New Flavors for the World’s Oldest Recipes” in the November-December issue of Saudi Aramco World. Click the link above to read the article on the publisher’s website and peruse the other articles in the issue. I really like the magazine, because its stated objective is to build understanding between peoples … Read more

Name That Silk Road Ingredient 1: Pistachios

I saw these in the market the other day and I couldn’t resist a few handfuls. This is an unusual presentation for them, so I’m wondering if you know which Silk Road Ingredient they are. Hint: They are soft and slightly sweet when eaten or used at this stage. (Contest closed as of 11/1/2012 – 9 AM EST) _____ I’ll leave it up for a … Read more

Mesopotamian Wildfowl Pie

There is a chill in the air and early mornings before the sun are best spent wrapped in a blanket, so it is time to welcome Autumn in once again. Sort of like a migratory bird taking its cues from the failing sun, I’ve realized that it is time for my annual exploration of Mesopotamian Cuisine. I have long wanted to try some of the … Read more

Culinary History Mystery #5 – A Loaf of Leavened Mesopotamian Bread

Something wonderful and unexpected happened yesterday. After a long day of tromping around historical archaeology sites in St. Mary’s City with the family, I arrived home to find a long-expected, but immediately unanticipated e-mail from a fellow food lover in England. Cid is a purveyor of fine foods and an expert breadmaker. Some time ago, I asked her to help me solve a historical food … Read more

Mesopotamian Cookoff Entry 10 – Mersu with Cheese Please by Laura

Mersu are not just for dessert, anymore. . . The addition of some combinations of Nippur – Nusku tablet ingredients – cheese, wine, raisins, figs, apples yields delicious savory treats – that could serve as appetizers, or main parts of a light meal. It is unknown exactly what sort of cheese the Mesopotamians had, but most cultures have at least one variety (usually more) of … Read more

Ancient Mesopotamian Hip Hop!

History is interesting and sometimes exciting, but the way it is communicated in the classroom is all too often, an incredible bore. Rote memorization of battles and dates, was to this budding scientist a real snooze. Later, in college, I was introduced to a new type of boredom, the analysis of minute details of a person’s background to discover how personality and personal experiences shaped … Read more

Mesopotamian Cookoff Entry 9 – Turnips with Herbs by Stephen Kelley

Today’s entry in the Mesopotamian Cookoff comes from my dear husband, Stephen, who has put up with me and my wild ideas and projects (like Silk Road Gourmet) for many years. For years I’ve asked him to join me in some of these escapades – help me write this story (screenplay, paper etc, you name it) – and much to my chagrin, he never has. … Read more

Mesopotamian Cookoff Entry 8 – Pork Tenderloin with Licorice by Caffettiera

God bless the Italians! An odd way to open a post about ancient Mesopotamian cuisine, I know, but so many ancient foods are still in use in the regional cuisines of Italy that it makes me want to praise them. That and today’s Mesopotamian Cookoff creation comes from the wonderful Italian cook and food blogger, Caffettiera Rosa, who concocted a terrific Pork Tenderloin with Licorice … Read more

Mesopotamian Cookoff Entry 7 – Roasted Barley and Herb Pilaf by Laura

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of barley for the Mesopotamians. It was quite simply, the mainstay of their existence, and was used to make bread, cakes and beer and feed animals (especially pigs to make them “clean” enough to eat), and it was integral to the barter system used to trade goods in many societies. They offered it to their Gods to feed and … Read more

Mesopotamian Cookoff Entry 6 – Pigeon with Herbs by Laura Kelley

Wild and domesticated artiodactyls: cows, sheep, deer, gazelle etc. were an important part of the Mesopotamian diet. But based on archaeological assemblages of bones, domestic and wildfowl were perhaps more important than the larger hoofed creatures. At some sites the number of bird bones greatly exceeds the number of medium-sized mammal bones, and are also found with bones from fish, shellfish claws, and mollusk shells. … Read more

Mesopotamian Cookoff Entry 5 – Lamb with Licorice and Juniper Berries by Deana Sidney

Another vision of the Lamb with Licorice and Juniper Berries recipe comes from designer and brilliant historical cook, Deana Sidney from the site Lost Past Remembered. Deana used the ingredients from Yale Tablet 25 – Recipe XX (water, fat and licorice root, salt, juniper berries, shallots, semolina, cumin and coriander, garlic, leeks and yogurt or sour cream) to create the beautiful and delicious lamb roast … Read more

Mesopotamian Cookoff Entry 4 – Mersu by Catherine McLean

The fourth entry in the Mesopotamian Cookoff comes to us all the way from Australia. Catherine McLean has pulled out the stops and created three new different dishes based on the Mersu recipe from Mari. The first is a stuffed dates dish, the second is a Date and Pistachio “Sweetmeat” and the third is a Pistachio, Honey and Date Macaron – and they all look … Read more

Mesopotamian Cookoff Entry 3 – Lamb and Licorice with Juniper Berries by Miles Collins

Pharaohs, prophets, warriors and peasants alike; all have valued licorice as a flavoring for food and drinks and as a medicine. To many ancients, licorice also tasted like love, for many sweet love potions from Sumer to Luxor to Vedic India were flavored with the root. Licorice was amongst the grave goods in Tutankhamen’s tomb and Theophrastus, the Greek philosopher and scientist called it the … Read more

Mesopotamian Cookoff Entry 2 – Lamb and Carob Stew by Laura Kelley

A carob tree and a wellspring of water have been called miracles that have sustained sages and prophets alike. The slow maturation and flowering of the carob tree also teaches one to invest in the future even when it is arduous and promises no immediate gains. The carob is staple that provides sustenance, the promise of the next generation, and is incredibly tasty when cooked … Read more

Mesopotamian Cookoff Entry 1 – Mersu by Sasha Martin

The first entry in our Mesopotamian Cookoff comes from friend in the blogosphere, Sasha Martin over at Global Table Adventure. As fate would have it, she was cooking the food of Iraq the same week that I announced the Cookoff and instantly noted the connections between the Babylonian mersu recipe and a confection on the modern Iraqi table. Using only the dates and pistachio nuts … Read more

Cookoff Challenge #1 – Ancient Mesopotamia I

Ancient Near East! Come to the Ancient Mesopotamian Cookoff Challenge! Think of it like Iron Chef – Mesopotamian Style! But instead of a theme ingredient, you have a list of ingredients without amounts or directions attached to them. The only thing between you and a finished dish is your own culinary creativity. There are two goals to the challenge: 1). Create dishes that could have … Read more