Foods of the Ancient World

Miniature red-figured vase showing two boys around a table of food and drink. Greek. 425–400 BC.

Hi Tomb Raider fans. I have been inspired by a random article by the British Museum blog! It led me to discover a grand classical cookbook as well!

We have all seen Lara Croft running through ancient streets pursuing legendary objects. She walks through ancient open markets, courtyards, temples and many other ruins. Ever wonder what the people of the ancient world ate? Would they enjoy our cuisine? Would we enjoy theirs?

How many times have we cooked a family favorite for dinner and heard the stories surrounding the history of the recipe and how it tied into your family. Recipes that were handed down for numerous generations. I have many of those floating about my family and smile as my children learn to make them.  It’s about tradition!

To understand our heritage, and who we are and where we came from, cooking can shape this in us all. We bask in the memories of when we gathered together at the table as friends and family and shared in the delicacies of one recipe to the next from our ancestral country. We look forward to special occasions where your mother, father aunts and uncles etc will bring the family favorite. This is not a unique experience, for we all have a story to share and a history to remember through food alone.

Let’s examine some fantastic taste sensations from the ancient past when gladiators battled in the Roman empire, and Alexander the Great conquered ancient kingdoms. Ever wonder what kind of foods these people enjoyed.

Thanks to The British Museum they took recipes from “The Classical Cookbook” linked to below, you can now experience nine fantastic recipes from the ancient world. I will elaborate on a couple and you can find all nine HERE

The following recipes are from The Classical Cookbook, by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger and are written in Greek and Latin to recreate the languages of the time these recipes were originally created.

Bronze grater from Greece 5th century

This recipe is Cabbage done the Athenian Way

It is actually a starter dish that attracted the attention of doctors of the time for they felt it could cure headaches and drunkenness among other things.

Serves 6

• 1 small white cabbage
• 2 heaped tsp chopped fresh green coriander in oil
• 2 tsp chopped fresh or dried rue (you can use a bitter a bitter herb or spice such as fenugreek seed as a substitute)
• 2 pinches asafoetida powder (you can use garlic or onion powder as a substitute)
• Salt

Honey vinegar
• 120g honey
• 2 tbsp red wine vinegar

First make the honey vinegar. Boil the honey and skim it, add the vinegar and reduce a little. Store until needed. Finely slice the cabbage, wash and drain it. Toss with the herbs and 3 tablespoons of honey vinegar and sprinkle with the asafoetida powder and a little salt.

Olive harvest in the countryside. Athenian black-figure amphora attributed to the Antimenes Painter. Greek, around 520 BC.

Olive Relish

Here is a recipe screaming in ancient history from 200 B.C. This is Cato’s (Marcus Porcius Cato) recipe read about him here

• 120g black olives
• 120g green olives
• 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
• 4 tbsp olive oil
• 1 heaped tsp chopped fennel leaf or finely diced fennel root
• 1/2 level tsp ground cumin (optional)
• 2 tsp chopped fresh coriander
• 2 tsp dried or chopped fresh rue (you can use a bitter a bitter herb or spice such as fenugreek seed as a substitute)
• 2 heaped tsp dried or 3 tsp chopped fresh mint

Chop the olives roughly and pour on the vinegar and olive oil. Prepare the herbs, chopping them finely if fresh, and add to the mixture. Place the olive relish in a seal able container and pour a little olive oil over the top. At this stage it can be eaten, as Cato firmly says, but it does improve with a few days’ marinating. Try it with pitta bread, accompanied by a sharp sheep’s cheese such as feta.

You can find all these and more HERE courtesy of the British Museum’s blog.

I hope you enjoyed this romp through history’s shadow. The best part about these dishes you can make them today and enjoy the taste of the past. I shall be back later with another site update.

Remember to like Lara,


~Emma AKA — M. Harris

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