Baking Bread in Ancient Egypt

A few experimental archaeologists are reclaiming recipes from ancient societies. By Keridwen Cornelius Around 2000 B.C., a baker in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes captured yeast from the air and kneaded it into a triangle of dough. The baked bread was then buried in a dedication ceremony beneath the temple of Pharaoh Mentuhotep II[…]

Brewing Beer in Ancient Mesopotamia

Beer was extremely popular in ancient Mesopotamia. Sipped through straws, it was enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Introduction People have been gathering over a beer for thousands of years. As an archaeologist, I can tell you the history of beer stretches deep into the human past – and the history of bars[…]

The Cookbook That Declared America’s Culinary Independence

An 18th-century guide taught Americans how to eat simply but sumptuously. By Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald American Cookery, published by the “orphan” Amelia Simmons in 1796, was the first cookbook by an American to be published in the United States. Its 47 pages (in the first edition) contained fine recipes for roasts—stuffed goose, stuffed[…]

What Did the Founding Fathers Eat and Drink as They Started a Revolution?

They may not have been hosting a cookout, but they did know how to imbibe and celebrate. As we commence celebrating July 4th with the time-honored traditions of beer, block parties and cookouts, it’s fun to imagine a cookout where the Founding Fathers gathered around a grill discussing the details of the Declaration of Independence.[…]

Food Rationing and Canning during World War II

Rationed foods were categorized as either needing red or blue points. Introduction The events on December 7, 1941 catapulted the United States into World War II. The country’s entrance into the war meant many changes on the home front. Chief among these alterations was the introduction of food rationing in 1942. On January 30th of[…]

Mid-Victorians and Their Food

Improved agricultural output and a political climate dedicated to ensuring cheap food led to a dramatic increase in the production of affordable foodstuffs. Introduction The mid-Victorian period is usually defined as the years between 1850 and 1870, but in nutritional terms we have identified a slightly longer period, lasting until around 1880. During these 30[…]

How Crisco Toppled Lard – And Made Americans Believers in Industrial Food

Marketers decided to focus on the ‘purity’ of factory food processing – a successful strategy that other brands would mimic. Introduction Perhaps you’ll unearth a can of Crisco for the holiday baking season. If so, you’ll be one of millions of Americans who have, for generations, used it to make cookies, cakes, pie crusts and[…]

Spice of Life: Black Pepper as a Medicine in the Early Modern World

One of our most common condiments was once very valuable and, until surprisingly recently, used as a versatile medicine. Since ancient Greek and Roman times, pepper has been prized for its ability to balance the humours of the body. It was so highly valued that, in 408 CE, Visigoth King Alaric I took 3,000 pounds[…]

The Neanderthal Diet—From Teeth to Guts

Some populations of Neanderthals were definitely more carnivorous than others. By Dr. Anna GoldfieldArchaeologist One of the more tenacious misconceptions about Neanderthals is that they were exclusively meat eaters. Sure, in some of the colder regions of Europe plant food would have been very seasonally limited, so meat was almost certainly a large part of[…]

Evidence Confirms Health Benefits of an Ancient Chinese Sweetness

Examining two recent discoveries in goji berry chemistry and shedding light on how and why they are beneficial to your health. What in the Heck Is a Goji Berry? For those of you who aren’t yet familiar, (worry not, you’re about to be) goji berries (fruits of Lycium barbarum –L. and Lycium chinense –Mill.) originate from and have[…]

Edible Lessons in Asian-American History from a Cookie Artist

The artist uses her craft to represent and raise awareness of Asian-American history and identity. Jasmine Cho knows the power of a good cookie. “Cookies,” she says, “can make anything more palatable.” Including conversations about race and social justice in America. A baker based in Pittsburgh, Cho creates intricate, hand-drawn cookie portraits of Asian-American figures[…]

Foods of the Columbian Exchange in the 15th and 16th Centuries

How did the Columbian Exchange shape food culture in the modern world? Introduction Can you imagine Kansas without wheat fields, Italy without marinara sauce, or Spain without gazpacho? Wheat, tomatoes, chili peppers, and many other foods were transferred between the Old and New Worlds, the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, following Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to[…]

Tasty Ancient Recipes from Mesopotamia

The origins of Iraqi cuisine and continued popularity. Mesopotamia (from the Greek, meaning “between two rivers”) was an ancient region in the Near East, which corresponds roughly to present-day Iraq. Widely regarded as the “cradle of civilization,” Mesopotamia should be more properly understood as a region that produced multiple empires and civilizations rather than any[…]

Colonial American Fast Food

Let’s adventure back to Colonial America—a time of exploration, revolution, taverns and….fast food? Yes, that’s right, fast food! We may think of the desire for fast food as being a 20th century phenomenon, but our colonial ancestors had the same desire for quick, convenient, and affordable fare that we do today. During the 18th century, colonial cooks,[…]

Agriculture in Ancient Rome

The great majority of the people ruled by Rome were engaged in agriculture. Introduction Roman Agriculture describes the farming practices of ancient Rome, an era that lasted 1000 years. From humble beginnings, the Roman Republic (509 BCE to 27 BCE) and empire (27 BCE to 476 CE) expanded to rule much of  Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East and thus comprised a large[…]

The Kellogg Brothers, Breakfast, and Religion

Informed by their religious faith, the siblings merged “spiritual” with physical health. The popular singer and movie star Bing Crosby once crooned, “What’s more American than corn flakes?” Virtually every American is familiar with this iconic cereal, but few know the story of the two men from Battle Creek, Michigan who created those famously crispy,[…]

A Pressing Matter: Ancient Roman Food Technology

Researchers show that an Ancient Roman text has long been misinterpreted, shedding new light on how innovation in olive oil and wine presses developed. Introduction No self-respecting Melbourne hipster café would be caught dead without its Gaggia coffee machine and drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar. These quintessentially Mediterranean food habits have crossed the seas[…]

Food in the Roman World

What the Romans ate and how. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The ancient Mediterranean diet revolved around four staples, which, even today, continue to dominate restaurant menus and kitchen tables: cereals, vegetables, olive oil and wine. Seafood, cheese, eggs, meat and many types of fruit were also available to those who could afford it. The Romans[…]