[Compiled by: Kandiah Thillaivinayagalingam]
[Food Habits Of Ancient Sumer-continuing]
The first tablet YBC 4644,about,1750 BC,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.the second tablet,YBC 8958,1750 BC, has seven recipes which are very detailed.The text is broken in several places and the name of the second recipe is missing,but it is a dish with small birds,maybe partridges.One of the recipe lines goes like this-
"Remove the head and feet.Open the body and clean the birds,reserving the gizzards and the pluck [heart, liver, and lungs].Split the gizzards and clean them.Next rinse the birds and flatten them.Prepare a pot and put birds,gizzards and pluck into it before placing it on the fire"

It does not mention whether fat or water is added- no doubt the method was so familiar that instructions were considered unnecessary- After the initial boiling or braising,the recipe continues-

"Put the pot back on the fire.Rinse out a pot with fresh water.Place beaten milk into it and place it on the fire.Take the pot (containing the birds) and drain it.Cut off the inedible parts,then salt the rest, and add them to the vessel with the milk, to which you must add some fat. Also add some rue[aromatic woody herbs or shrubs],which has already been stripped and cleaned.When it has come to a boil,add minced leek,garlic,samidu [Semolina?] and onion (but not too much onion)"

While the birds cook,preparations for serving the dish must be made-

"Rinse crushed grain,then soften it in milk and add to it,as you kneed it,salt,samidu,leeks and garlic along with enough milk and oil so that a soft dough will result which you will expose to the heat of the fire for a moment.Then cut it into two pieces.Take a platter large enough to hold the birds.Place the prepared dough on the bottom of the plate.Be careful that it hangs over the rim of the platter only a little.Place it on top of the oven to cook it.On the dough which has already been seasoned,place the pieces of the birds as well as the gizzards and pluck.Cover it with the bread lid [which has meanwhile been baked] and send it" to the table.

The third tablet contains 3 damaged recipes for the pot cooking of a
bird,butumtu[An identified grain,may be Pistachio Nuts or Flour?] and some kind of meat.However,a 3900-year-old Sumerian poem honouring Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing,contains the oldest surviving complete recipe.

The Sumerians were big-time beer drinkers.In fact,may be by accident, they would have discovered beer.Sources indicate that the old school nomadic hunter-gatherers,finally settled in Mesopotamia and started farming.One of their first harvested products was grain.To keep this grain,it was often baked and stored.Some 6,000 years ago,ancient text reveals that eventually it was
formulated that the sweetest grain,if baked,left out, moistened,forgotten,then eaten,would produce an uplifting,cheerful feeling.Intoxication at the primal level,The first beer! After this blissful discovery,baked grains were broken into pieces and stuffed into a pot.Water,and sometimes aromatics,fruit or honey,were added (creating a basic mash and wort) and left to ferment.Years later, the Babylonians fashioned what we now know as a straw, to extract the juice from the grain pulp in the pot.



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