Friday, March 27, 2015

Picture Day Friday: Oldest Cookbook c. 1750 BCE

The world's oldest cookbook is on a clay tablet from Babylonia c. 1750 BCE. The Akkadian cuneiform writing system was so complex that it's the general consensus that only scribes could read it. So, this tablet wouldn't be a household commodity and was probably written to preserve typical Mesopotamian cooking examples for posterity.

Given that the recipes call for rare ingredients, this book probably represents cuisine for royalty. The Mesopotamians were great record keepers. So daily foodstuff purchases by the middle and lower classes are available as are vocabulary lists for foodstuffs. So the supposition of this clay tablet as representative of haut cuisine is borne out.

From the Yale Library site: "This tablet includes 25 recipes for stews, 21 are meat stews and 4 are vegetable stews. The recipes list the ingredients and the order in which they should be added, but does not give measures or cooking time - they were clearly meant only for experienced chefs."