Biblical Archaeology Review 43:3, May/June 2017

Strata: BAR Test Kitchen: Eat Like an Ancient Babylonian

A favorite way for me to familiarize myself with a foreign culture is to sample its cuisine. Not only do you learn its ingredients and cooking methods, but also the setting in which meals are typically shared and with whom.

This new BAR feature hopes to introduce you to a new—yet old—kind of cooking. If you have ever wanted to eat like an ancient Babylonian, Roman, etc., now you can. We’ve tracked down ancient recipes and tried to recreate them using modern ingredients, so that you, too, can enjoy these dishes. Join us on a gastronomical adventure!

First on the menu is an ancient Babylonian stew. We selected a recipe that is named after its primary vegetable ingredient: tuh’u. Unfortunately, we are not able to identify tuh’u and a few other ingredients in the recipe. The late Assyriologist Jean Bottéro—formerly of L’École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) in Paris—translated numerous Babylonian recipes, a task for which he was uniquely qualified as both a scholar of ancient Mesopotamia and an accomplished cook, and we have used his translation as the basis for our work.

Tah’u Stew

“There must (also) be the flesh from a leg of lamb. Prepare the water. Add fat, [ … ], salt, beer, onions, (an herb called) spiney, coriander, samīdu, cumin, and beetroot to throw into the pot. Then, crush garlic and leeks, and add them. Let the whole cook into a stew, onto which you sprinkle coriander and šuḫtinnū.”1

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