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History Cookbook!
June 26, 2011 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Welcome to the history cookbook. Do you know what the Vikings ate for dinner? What a typical meal of a wealthy family in Roman Britain consisted of, or what food was like in a Victorian Workhouse? Why not drop into history cookbook and find out?

This project looks at the food of the past and how this influenced the health of the people living in each time period. You can also try some of the recipes for yourself. There are a wide range of historical recipes from Roman Lentil Casserole/Pottage or Libum (a honey cheesecake) to Victorian Brown Bread Ice Cream and Gruel (Why not see if you would be asking for more?).
posted by Blasdelb (45 comments total) 130 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Q" Is the Steak unſatiſfactory?

"A" Sizzle the meat. It muſt sizzle.
posted by griphus at 4:21 PM on June 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


I'm really into historical recipes* and the nitty gritty if How Did They Live, so I love this.

*this is how I found out my tounge lives in a rich monastery in the 1400s, brandy pear and hiney bread with nuts and slabs of cheese? Yes please
posted by The Whelk at 4:24 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, I think this is jb's world, but how having enough to eat effected history. Eco called bean*cultivation the thing that brought Europe out of the dark ages cause people had enough protein and calories to keep working and have extra left over.


*okay beans and reading glasses.
posted by The Whelk at 4:27 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Excellent find. I am sure my wife is about to hate me as I cook through a few things... just for the sake of history.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:47 PM on June 26, 2011


Almond Leech sounds soo much better than the name implies.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:02 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Great post! I'm looking forward to working my way through the site and maybe some of the recipes.
posted by immlass at 5:06 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dear Future Historians,

Please do not judge us for the Double Down.
posted by Monochrome at 5:07 PM on June 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


The follow up question to this is, what kind of storage space did they have? I got to thinking recently about American overeating, and the giant fridges and cupboards et cetera that most of us have, and how that might contribute (simply by virtue of always having a lot of food around).
posted by curious nu at 5:18 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fun site, history & food, a great combo.

Bread & dripping - from the interwar years.
Growing up, my Mom always saved bacon fat - she had a tin can she would pour it into & kept it in the fridge. Then she would use that when she fried potatoes (yum) and who knows what all else. Mighta been a post-depression thing or just stretching money when you had 7 kids - but she never wasted anything.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:20 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Fire of London Cakes are a cheat - you don't bake them in the oven, you're supposed to burn your house down. Duh.
posted by Quietgal at 5:34 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read somewhere a claim that "the typical Athenian working man had virtually nothing to eat except olives". Is this nonsense? It sounds incredibly unlikely to me (why not fish?) but this seems like the thread to ask.
posted by piato at 5:36 PM on June 26, 2011


hiney bread

lol forever
posted by elizardbits at 5:39 PM on June 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Fish was regarded as a luxury. The first chapter of Courtesans and Fishcakes by James Davidson is worth a read if you're interested. Actually the whole book is a fun read.
posted by GeckoDundee at 5:55 PM on June 26, 2011


Ancient Greek cuisine
posted by goethean at 6:11 PM on June 26, 2011


Fuck yes, this is pretty sweet.

I like to pretend that there would be a way to be vegetarian in the ancient world, but aside from some progressive Greeks and Buddhists, there really wasn't.

At least I could be historically drunk!
posted by klangklangston at 6:22 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was awesome, but would it have killed that WWII housewife to sharpen her kitchen knife? Watching her trying to cut up a turnip was cringe-inducing. I kept expecting the video to cut and come back to her with a gigantic bandage around one finger...
posted by LN at 6:36 PM on June 26, 2011


Please do not judge us for the Double Down.

Tayk ye an daube of beefe and grynd it welle and fyne, and mayke from the meate two rounde patties pleasyng to the eye. Take up oyl, and egge, and joyn them welle with a whiske, and let hym stande in the sunne. Thys is a special sauce.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:41 PM on June 26, 2011 [25 favorites]


I like to pretend that there would be a way to be vegetarian in the ancient world, but aside from some progressive Greeks and Buddhists, there really wasn't.

You could try being poor!

And of course gladiators were largely vegetarian.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:14 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


How about dinner? l know a place that serves great Viking food.
posted by kcds at 7:30 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


They seem to take butter for granted from the get-go. I'd like to see her churn goats-milk butter in a hollowed-out tree stump.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:34 PM on June 26, 2011


Interestingly, the "wild fruit pudding" that they had in the prehistoric section -- nothing more than fresh berries with cream -- is still pretty much the ne plus ultra way to serve berries today. You really do come back to the basics after several thousand years.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kinda wish it wasn't so focused on England.
posted by kafziel at 7:39 PM on June 26, 2011


Bread & dripping - from the interwar years.

When I a kid I was friends with a girl who lived around the corner. Said girl had a mother whose grand pretentions to being A Lady didn't sit well with the fact that she had to live around the corner from People Like Us. (Her dad was a top bloke who took us to the pool, made us milkshakes and let us muck around with wood in his amazing shed, and I could never figure out why they were together. But I digress.)

One summer day I asked my friend whether she'd like to have dinner at our place, as we were having a barbecue, and my dad was going to mow the lawn, and there would be swings and a sprinkler and what more could anybody else want from life? She asked her mother, who was aghast. 'Heavens, no! Why, who knows what might be for supper! It might be bread and dripping!'

So I wandered back home, and when Dad asked if my friend would be joining us I replied by asking what bread and dripping was. I expected some sort of frowning or possibly shouting but Dad nearly wet his King Gees laughing. A short time later I was swinging through a sprinkler trying to stop my sausage sandwich from getting wet and wishing the day would never end and all was forgotten.

One day a friend of the family took me to a rural property and we had bread, fried in beef dripping, with tomato and Worcesteshire sauce, white pepper and too much salt, cooked in an iron pan over a fire. 'Don't tell ya mother' he warned, so I knew it had to be especially good. And it was.

I can't say I'm much for cold dripping spread on bread (though with finely chopped onions and a tall beer...). But bakery-fresh soft white bread pan fried in a healthy dose of pure saturated fat - bacon grease, or the creamy congealings from last night's roast - drizzled with Lea and Perrins, and possibly topped with a fried egg, with a side of bubble and squeak, is my favourite breakfast of win.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:52 PM on June 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Kinda wish it wasn't so focused on England.

It's...an...English web site.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's...an...English web site.

I just mean, like, France and Spain and Italy and Greece and such during a lot of these time periods could have just as interesting of stuff.

Wasn't aware the site was part of a UK government project, though.
posted by kafziel at 8:27 PM on June 26, 2011


I like that it has ew yucky don't try this recipes (though some, like the trench stew, and gruel--which i guess was just watered down oatmeal? don't look SO bad).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:28 PM on June 26, 2011


Fair, but I gathered that it was a site geared to kids, and so different periods of history may be "exotic" enough for them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:28 PM on June 26, 2011


"They seem to take butter for granted from the get-go. I'd like to see her churn goats-milk butter in a hollowed-out tree stump."

You can make it in a bladder. Likewise, some cheeses. And once people had pots, it was game on.

"You could try being poor! "

Vegetables weren't really viable for a lot of ancient to early Europe for the same reason that fish weren't — lack of refrigerated transport. You can't live on tubers alone throughout the winter, and most of Europe has harsh winters (especially more than a couple hundred years back).

Almost all of the vegetarian food for poor people is from summer and fall crops, and I really wouldn't want to try to be vegetarian before the New World crops came over.
posted by klangklangston at 10:08 PM on June 26, 2011


Almost all of the vegetarian food for poor people is from summer and fall crops

Yeah, but... pickles! Dried things! Smoked things! Cheese! So much awesome food only exists because people had to make that summer and fall crop last through the winter...
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:44 PM on June 26, 2011


If you like your dinner with a side of history, you might enjoy the British program 'The Supersizers go/eat', where the two hosts spend a week each episode trying the diet of different historical eras (including generally large amounts of historically appropriate booze)
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 12:32 AM on June 27, 2011


Any suggestions on where to find that program?
posted by kafziel at 1:14 AM on June 27, 2011


YouTube. The Regency ep made me want to hurl. The two twits presenting it didn't help.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:18 AM on June 27, 2011


Ah yes I meant to mention that the personalities of the presenters might be an acquired taste
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 1:39 AM on June 27, 2011


My mother eats bread and dripping to this day. She says it makes her nostalgic for her childhood. I think it tastes like... congealed fat on flour.
posted by lollusc at 2:24 AM on June 27, 2011


My mum's the same about devon on white bread with margarine. It's one of the first things she eats when she visits from the States. I must admit to being partial to the occasional Hans Strassburg, Coon cheese and mustard pickle sandwich to relive my wasted youth.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:57 AM on June 27, 2011


The German word for dripping is schmalz, and I remember encountering small pots of it on restaurant tables in Germany for spreading on bread.
posted by kcds at 4:00 AM on June 27, 2011


The German word for dripping is schmalz, and I remember encountering small pots of it on restaurant tables in Germany for spreading on bread.

Yes, but that's usually made of pork fat. I've also seen goose and chicken fat which is the way the word is used in the United States (because it was brought over by Ashkenazi Jews).
posted by atrazine at 4:27 AM on June 27, 2011


Yeah, every time I meet a non-ashkenazi jew it is like a first encounter with an alien race, because here are people just like me who nevertheless have grown up without having known the singular squishy gross pleasure of gnawing on pumpernickel heels smeared with chicken schmalz.

At least we still have guilt and parental manipulation in common.
posted by elizardbits at 5:17 AM on June 27, 2011


When I was a kid I was a member of an educational cooperative that studied, well, whatever interested us. I was about ten when one of us got hooked by Shakespeare, so we put on A Midsummer Night's Dream in somebody's living room (I was Queen Titania!) and made an evening of Elizabethan London. The kids did all the work with the play, so the parents stepped up with the evening's food. A cookbook of period recipes was procured and we had an Elizabethan potluck supper.

I don't know whom to blame: the cookbook author, the cooking parents or the Elizabethans themselves, but that was the most inedibly offensive food I have ever in my life witnessed. It smelled bad, it tasted revolting and looked like Alpo. We ended up ordering pizza, and a fine time was had by all. Especially when Bottom fell off the piano bench and his ass's head got turned around so he couldn't see!
posted by workerant at 6:33 AM on June 27, 2011


Growing up, my Mom always saved bacon fat - she had a tin can she would pour it into & kept it in the fridge.

My girlfriend does that now! She says it is from a combination of the fact that we are not supposed to pour hot oil down the drain and that forgetting it in the pan makes it a pain in the ass to scrub out. So we've got a good-sized coffee tin of bacon fat in the freezer. Originally she was against using it to actually cook, but she'll use it to fry up bacon once in a while. When she's not looking, I fry practically everything in it. So. Good.
posted by griphus at 7:17 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fried eggs in bacon fat are unfathomably good. Throwing bacon fat away is like throwing away liquid gold.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:21 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can't live on tubers alone throughout the winter...

Sure you can, as long as you aren't relying on a monoculture of them.
posted by DU at 8:31 AM on June 27, 2011


kafziel, for you:

Gode Cookery and Medieval Cookery both present serious attempts to reproduce medieval European recipes from a variety of historical sources (including many Continental sources).

Each is run by good friends, so I am biased, but their scholarship is excellent; far behind the traditional "they ate spiced meat to cover the spoilage!!!" hype (a lie, by the way, which is traceable to a single academic paper in the late 20th-C).
posted by IAmBroom at 5:21 PM on June 27, 2011


not my joke

I have a soft spot in my heart for this kind of food............................
To be precise, it is 1 cm below the stent.
posted by lalochezia at 12:59 PM on June 30, 2011


l know a place that serves great Viking food.

Do the proprietors have filed teeth?
posted by homunculus at 1:53 PM on July 8, 2011


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