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The World’s Oldest Cookbook: 5,000-Year-Old Babylonian Recipes For A Fine Cuisine

First we eat, then we do everything else.

M.F.K. Fisher  

Mostly, you know a place for its cuisine. When you travel through a place, all you remember is the famous landmarks to visit and the popular culinary delights that belong to that locality. Whether or not you are a foodie, you will definitely not miss the ancient recipes that date back straight to the Babylonian era. These recipes are so gourmet that they easily make their place in a fine dine menu.

Who Invented Fine Cuisine?

Amazing Ancient Recipes for a Fine CuisineSourtesy of the Yale Babylonian Collection

Claims indicate that during the Babylonian civilisation, the invention of the fine cuisine was done. The invention was done in the prehistoric period. But there is no record for exactly who invented the fine cuisine. May be in the medieval age, after the ancestors discovered fire and learned to control it, they came up with the concept of cooking and fine cuisine.

However, the famous  gourmet chef  and French Assyriologist, Jean Bottero, who decoded 3 cookbooks, believed the existence of fine cuisine in such an early period to be surprising. He mentioned that the recipes are refined, sophisticated and artistic. The world’s oldest cookbook hails from the land of Mesopotamia. This cookbook is known as Yale Culinary Tablet today.

 The Ancient Recipes – Yale Culinary Tablets

The most ancient cookbooks known to mankind are The Yale Culinary Tablets. They date back to the 1700s. They are now a set of three clay tablets, namely YBC 4644, YBC 8958, and  YBC 4648. YBCs indicate the cooking instructions for 25 vivid recipes. Yale Babylonian Collection preserves the ancient recipes today.

Amazing Ancient Recipes for a Fine CuisineSourtesy of the Yale Babylonian Collection

Apart from the Yale Culinary Tablets, there are also references of the cooks cooking in the kitchen, from the royal Babylon. There are tablets that have scenes depicting the king savouring delicacies in the courtroom. The whole collection of this medieval era is quite interesting.


Famous Recipes from the Ancient Cookbook

Out of the 25 ancient recipes, 21 recipes are that of meat and the other 4 are of vegetables. Almost all of the recipes involve meat and vegetables cooked in a broth, and tempered with onions and garlic. The exact recipes are left for your interpretation.

dsc_2397-1This clay tablet has seven detailed recipes. The second recipe is thought to be a dish using partridges.

Sylvia Carter from the LA times says that the ancient people used cooking techniques involving a blend a spices and herbs to flavour. She also adds that there are mentions in the Yale Culinary Tablets about the presentation and garnishing of these fine cuisines.

One of the recipes indicated the use of breadcrumbs for thickening of the crust.

Amazing Ancient Recipes for a Fine Cuisine

The scholars successfully translated recipe YBC 4644 as stew made with Lamb, Licorice, and vegetables.

Amazing Ancient Recipes for a Fine Cuisine

Another recipe from YBC 8958, indicated it to be a preparation of Hen in herbs.

Amazing Ancient Recipes for a Fine Cuisine

Onions, garlics, and leeks are the most common seasonings that YBC claims to mention. Scholars are yet to identify some of the seasonings and ingredients.

Reason to Write the Culinary Tablets

The reason behind writing the ancient recipes is not clear. But, one thing is for sure that they did not write it for the cooks. As the cooks back then were not literate. One possibility could be for the exchange of recipes between other civilisations.


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