The Philosopher's Kitchen, for the Historical Foodie
For almost as long as I can remember, I have had a love of history. No, I didn't care for famous leaders, political intrigue, border changes or battles. What interested me was how people lived. I wanted to know what ordinary folks wore, what sort of shelters they lived in, how they raised their children, what they made and traded and their culture.
Over time, I came to believe that one of the best ways to understand a culture is to understand their food. What people ate, how they prepared it, where it came from; all these food related things served as a foundation for everything else. Nations could rise and fall on people's stomachs! It has been fascinating to learn just what people were willing to eat, and what they were willing to do to get the food they needed and wanted.
I also learned that humans have always had a very sophisticated palate! I find it easy to imagine some early human, roasting a piece of meat over a stick and thinking, "hmm... I wonder if that root over there would taste good with this?"
In learning more about how people ate in different parts of the world, I enjoyed trying to recreate some of their meals. It's not an easy task at times, as some ingredients are a mystery. That is where I really appreciate a good historical cookbook, where the authors have taken the time to find modern equivalents for ancient recipes.
The Philosopher's Kitchen: Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook, by food historian Francine Seganis, one of my favourite historical cookbooks! Going back thousands of years, we are treated to fascinating tidbits of history, quotes, information and - of course! - great recipes. From the simple to the complex, they are all delicious examples of the sorts of food enjoyed by the likes of Plato, Epicurus, Homer and Aristotle. The recipes are well organized by category, and there's even a "Menus and Entertaining" section, guiding you through your own historically themed feast. Gorgeous photography illustrates how these dishes were as pleasing to the eye as to the stomach, and the book is rich with information about the culture and occasions they were typically enjoyed in. I enjoyed this book as much to read as for its recipes!
This cookbook would be a welcome addition to the library of any cook, but for those who love historical cookery, I would consider this one of the best cookbooks to have.
Have you ever tried to recreate an ancient recipe?
Here are some other excellent historical cookbooks for your library.
From the same author as The Philosopher's Kitchen, and just as excellent.
"From elaborate holiday feasts to a simple farmer’s lunch, the book explores the significance of various meals, discusses key ingredients, places food within the socioeconomic conditions of the time, and offers accessible recipes for readers to make their own tastes of the first century."
Tracing food from pre-history to modern times.
Watch this chef recreate a bread from AD 79.