1700 BC – The Oldest Known “Cook Book” in the World

You might be thinking that cook books are rather resent,
historicly speeking but:

The oldest known cookbook in the world, written on clay tablets, goes back as far as the second millennium BC. Three small clay tablets, inscribed with intricate cuneiform signs, contain cooking instructions for thirty-five Akkadian dishes. They were written during the First Babylonian dynasty, somewhere in the fertile valley between Tigris and Euphrates in modern-day Iraq.

Worlds oldest cook book_

An official in the Babylonian king Hammurabi’s court wrote sometime between 1792 BC and 1750 BC down 25 recipes for casserole.

Outside each dish ingredients were summed up, and in what order they were to go into the pot. The stone tablets contains 21 recipes for meat dishes. The dishes combined beef, lamb, goat, game and poultry with vegetables, raisins, dates and mushrooms. Also disclosed are four vegetarian dishes.

These recipes can be dated to an era in which splendid ancient cities were constructed. Babylon — the grand capital of this empire — has been reduced to rubble and ruins, but these recipes still give a hint of its oriental aroma. Little is known about the scribes who wrote these tablets or the cooks who used them. Some scientist suggest that they were meant for professional chefs, because the instructions are quite concise.

Not surprisingly, this collection consists in large part of stews and broths, a feasible technique when cooking on open fires. Meat is the main ingredient in most recipes from that time, and is seared before adding a fatty broth or beer. Ancient foodies seem to have preferred fowl and mutton. Babylonian chefs had easy access to meat, as Mesopotamian farmers had been raising sheep and chicken since prehistory. More exclusive meats are gazelle and francolin (a bird comparable to pheasant). Aromatic ingredients like dill and mint are added later and the dish is brought to the table with fresh greens or other garnishes.

Balancing and blending flavors is a quintessential credo in cuneiform cuisine, and the recipes in the Yale Babylonian collection frequently combine matching ingredients. Almost every preparation calls for a combination of onion (or leek) and garlic, added to the broth in the first stages of the cooking process.

Worlds oldest cook book3_

A little closer to our own time both the Egyptians and the Romans had and were using cook books and the dishes as the Babylonions’ seemed suprisingly close to our own.