Meet Hercules, One of America’s Early Celebrity Chefs – Gastro Obscura

Washington's Philadelphia residence, as depicted by William L. Breton.

Washington’s Philadelphia residence, as depicted by William L. Breton.

AFTER A LONG DAY IN president George Washington’s executive kitchen, chef Hercules hit the streets of Philadelphia with sartorial flair and a keen eye for late-18th century fashion. Atop his head, the enslaved cook wore a voguish tricorn hat. Bright metal buttons held together his blue velvet-collared coat, a pair of shiny buckles dominated his fastidiously polished shoes, and a long watch-chain dangled from the side of his black silken…

Source: Meet Hercules, One of America’s Early Celebrity Chefs – Gastro Obscura

I Tried a Medieval Diet, And I Didn’t Even Get That Drunk | Atlas Obscura

A kingly feast, from the Bayeux Tapestry. (Image: Public domain)

It can seem sometimes like all diet advice boils down to the same basic ideas. Eat vegetables, healthy proteins, avoid processed snack food and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

This was not, however, the case in medieval times.

The Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum was created, allegedly, by famous doctors for English royalty and disseminated in the form of a poem. It recommends, very specifically, red wine, fresh…

Source: I Tried a Medieval Diet, And I Didn’t Even Get That Drunk | Atlas Obscura

Bulgarian Archaeologists Discover 11th Century Rakia Distillation Vessel | Ancientfoods

Original Article:
July 27, 2015

Bulgarian archaeologists recently discovered an 11th century fragment of a distillation vessel used for the production of the country’s traditional fruit brandy, which is known as rakia.

The fragment was uncovered during the excavation works, which are being conducted by the National Historical Museum (NIM) at the medieval Lyutitsa fortress.

The fortress is situated on a hill above the town of Ivaylovgrad and the find was discovered by the team of archaeologist Filip Petrunov, press statement of NIM informs.

This is the second vessel for the distillation of rakia to be uncovered at the fortress and the third one in Bulgaria.The first vessel at Lyutitsa was found in…

Source: Bulgarian Archaeologists Discover 11th Century Rakia Distillation Vessel | Ancientfoods

The Ancient City Where People Decided To Eat Chickens | Ancientfoods

Lee Perry Gal measures chicken long bones at the zooarchaeology lab, Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa.

An ancient, abandoned city in Israel has revealed part of the story of how the chicken turned into one of the pillars of the modern Western diet.

The city, now an archaeological site, is called Maresha. It flourished in the Hellenistic period from 400 to 200 BCE.

“The site is located on a trade route between Jerusalem and Egypt,” says Lee Perry-Gal, a doctoral student in the department of archaeology at the University of Haifa. As a result, it was a meeting place of cultures, “like New York City,” she says.

Not too long ago, the archaeologists unearthed something unusual: a collection of chicken bones.

“This was very, very surprising,” says Perry-Gal.

The surprising thing was not that chickens lived here. There’s evidence that humans have kept chickens around for thousands of years, starting in Southeast Asia and China.

But those older sites contained just a few scattered chicken bones…

Source: The Ancient City Where People Decided To Eat Chickens | Ancientfoods

Dandyfunk and Slumgullion (Guest Post 9)

The modern traveller is used to eating recognisable and safe food wherever he or she visits in the world. Even in the less visited countries no one is surprised to find there is a McDonalds or similar fast food outlet to feed them from more or less the same menu as in any British or North American city. Likewise the traveller expects clean hot and cold water and at least basic toilet facilities. Not so for the traveller in late Victorian and Edwardian times. Then, you needed a pretty strong constitution and accepted what sustenance and limited comforts were available.

One great traveller was C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne (1865-1944) who claimed to have travelled 400,000 miles. He struggled as a writer for some time, writing mainly…

Source: Dandyfunk and Slumgullion (Guest Post 9)

Archaeologists find Bronze Age food at prehistoric settlement “comparable to the Mary Rose”


Archaeologists found food from between 800-1000 BC in a set of pots, textiles and other material at a Cambridgeshire settlement destroyed by fire during the Bronze Age© Cambridge Archaeological Unit

An “extraordinary testimony” to the lives of prosperous people in Bronze Age Britain could lie under the soil of a 1,100-square metre site destroyed in a fire 3,000 years ago, say archaeologists who are about to start digging within a brick pit near Peterborough.
Must Farm – part of the Flag Fen Basin, and the site where nine pristine log boats were famously unearthed in 2011 – was protected by a ring of wooden posts before a dramatic fire at the end of the Bronze Age caused the dwelling to collapse into the river.
Its submergence preserved its contents, creating what experts are describing as a “time capsule” of “exceptional” decorated tiles made from lime tree bark.
Rare small pots…

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The Three Ancient Super-Powers: Part 1, The Phoenicians | The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife

Originally posted on The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife.

It may be hard to imagine, these days, that Sicily was once the cradle of European civilisation. Three super-powers battled for supremacy and Sicily was the centre of it all.

Today, I’ll tell you about the Phoenicians, the earliest super-power and Sicily’s first colonists.

Carthaginians and Phoenicians: the first empire

The Phoenicians were the first super-power, from the narrow strip of coastal land now called Lebanon.

Fearless sailors and ingenious traders throughout the known world, the Phoenicians invented money, created an alphabetic script for taking inventory, and built the world’s first import-export economy.

Everyone in the ancient world wanted their red murex shellfish, because wearing clothes in this special colour protected them against the Evil Eye, a terrifying primal force which caused infertility, crop failure and death. Egyptian Pharaohs, Roman Consuls and Greek dictators dared not leave the house without their red clothes on. The name „Phoenician“ comes from the Greek word for red.

This was not all they sold. They also produced fine glass artwork and ceramics, they transported rare food crops, and they sold the best wood in the world for making ships’ masts, from their indigenous Lebanese pines.

Phoenician colonies sprang up all over the Mediterranean. These began as small trading stations, with a warehouse and a few guards who stayed behind to protect the merchandise and trade with the locals. Gradually, they grew into full-scale city-states. Their seminal culture laid the groundwork for much of modern Mediterranean religions, foods, languages, agriculture and art.

Carthage (nowadays called Tunis), benefitted from its central position and eventually became the largest of all the Phoenician city-states. When the Assyrians of modern-day Iraq conquered Phoenicia around 800 B.C., Carthage became the centre of the Phoenician civilisation. Carthage founded colonies of its own, including many in Sicily.

And the evil eye? To this day, some elderly Sicilians sprinkle salt inside their doorways and hide red pouches of…

via The Three Ancient Super-Powers: Part 1, The Phoenicians | The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife.

Mediterranean Diet an Ancient Greek Invention, University of Exeter Study Says |

Ancient Greek doctors were the ones who invented the infamous Mediterranean diet, as Hippocratic physicians used rich flavors in food in order to treat their patients, a new study from the British University of Exeter revealed, according to the Daily Mail.

The experts at the University of Exeter studied texts of ancient Greek doctors and found that they believed rich flavors could improve the food’s nutritional potency, while one of them, Galen of Pergamon, prescribed food recipes containing garlic and onions to patients. According to the same study, their work laid the principals of modern Mediterranean cooking, considered among the world’s healthiest. At the same time, ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote about the importance of food in health, while Hippocrates said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

As Professor John Wilkins, an expert on Greek Culture at the University of Exeter, explained to Daily Mail, ancient Greek physicians “take flavor as a measure of nutritional potency because that property of astringency in unripe apples or pungency in onions…

via Mediterranean Diet an Ancient Greek Invention, University of Exeter Study Says |

Revisited Myth # 31: Spices were used to mask the flavor and odors of rotting food.

History Myths Debunked

Francis C. writes: Please do post something about food myths – the one regarding medieval people heavily spicing their food to hide the fact that it was rotten is still around!


My pleasure, Francis. This is a myth that targets people of many era from medieval Europe to early America. But never mind my words–here is author Bill Bryson, trying to debunk this myth in his book, At Home: “The only people who could afford most spices were the ones least likely to have bad meat, and anyway spices were too valuable to be used as a mask. . . people used them carefully and sparingly, and not as a sort of flavorsome cover-up.”

Because they came from so far away–the aptly named Spice Islands, aka the East Indies–spices were very expensive and, for many centuries, only for the richest Westerners. Not the sort of people who ate rotten…

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My Lady Chanworths receipt for Jumballs

Cooking in the Archives

It’s high time that we talk about jumballs. We were initially mystified by the moniker, but jumballs are a classic early modern treat: A rich, satisfying, highly-spiced, shortbread cookie. They are the single most delicious thing we’ve cooked from the archives to date.

Even a quick search to define the term revealed the jumball’s long-term popularity, from Gervase Markam’s classic English Housewife (1649) to the iconic Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1888), with examples on many other historical cookery sites like this one. The Oxford English Dictionary generalizes among the range of different spices and methods in these various recipes to define early modern jumballs as a “kind of fine sweet cake or biscuit, formerly often made up in the form of rings or rolls.”

In LJS 165 there are two recipes for jumballs back to back: “To Make Jumballs / My Mother Anges receipt” and “My Lady…

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Carrot Pudding

Cooking in the Archives

Carrot cake is generally a crowd-pleaser. But carrot pudding? When we found this recipe in UPenn Ms. Codex 631, we were intrigued. We also wanted to try a pudding simply because we’ve found so many of them in early modern recipe books. Puddings may have been the eighteenth-century equivalent of the recent cupcake craze.

This two-volume recipe book is dated 1730 (vol. 1) and 1744 (vol. 2) and belonged to Judeth Bedingfield, though it contains the handwriting of multiple persons. The carrot pudding recipe comes from the first volume, which includes not only other recipes for cooking – pickled pigeon, for instance, “quaking pudding,” quince cream, and many more – but also for making various kinds of wine and cordials and for household remedies for ailments like colic. It provides a wonderful example of the range of recipes that early modern recipe books can include. (In fact, stay tuned…

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