HOF Episode 16: The Dark Bread Ages (Medieval Europe)

In Late Antiquity, without the Roman Empire around to control everything, forest and wilderness reclaimed Europe and its people went local. Start with that, then stir to combine with a rising Catholic Church, and you’ve got a recipe for a brand new culture, one that just might be the foundation of the modern western world.

Let’s get into the Early Middle Ages.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Food: A Cultural and Culinary History, lecture by Ken Albala

Life in a Medieval Castle: Medieval Food

The Food Timeline

Daily Life in the Age of Charlemagne, John J. Butt

HOF Episode 15: Princes of Flavor (India)

Which ancient civilization made the most flavorful cuisine?

Perhaps you could make a case for any of the cuisines and civilizations we’ve covered thus far, and no doubt each one has been best at something. But when it comes to pure, impact of flavor? Nobody beats India.

Thanks to its geography, history, and available ingredients, as well as some impressively advanced cooking techniques we’ll cover in depth, the story of South Asian civilization is the story of spice, rice, and flavor. Oh, and of vegetarians too!

WARNING: side effects of this episode may include getting very, very hungry!

Music for this episode sampled from the late, great Ravi Shankar

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Continue reading “HOF Episode 15: Princes of Flavor (India)”

HOF Episode 13: Empire of Shepherds (Iran)

Many great moments in civilization happened when cultures of the Far East, interacted with those in the West.  Through all those moments, there was one region which sat between them, one which was always happy to be in the middle, mediating and facilitating exchange of culture, goods, and cusine. That region is Iran!

Persia, Parthia, Elam.  It has gone by many other names through its history, but the Iranian Plateau has always been the great nexus between East and West.

Come for the flatbreads, stay (a couple thousands years) for the rice!

Music for this episode performed by Dariush Talai

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HOF Episode 12: Herders of the Old World

Welcome to the second Season of the History of Food!

To kick things off, we’ll be walking ground we’ve tread before. The history of pastoral nomadism, that is the animal herders in Europe, Asia, and Africa, has frequently come up in our studies of urban civilizations, but until now, we’ve always looked at them from inside the city walls.

Well, not today. Today, we do our best to head out on the open road, to study the herders and the wanderers, the cheesemakers and the yogurt drinkers, and the monumental effect they had on human history, from their own perspective. Come listen!

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HOF Episode 11: Bread and Circuses, but Mostly Bread (Rome)

Rome. Probably what most people think of when they think “Ancient World”. In this episode, however, we discover that in terms of the culinary, the Roman Republic and then Empire was most distinguishable as a lens into the diets and cooking of the wider ancient World before it.

Come listen to find out more.

Music for this episode performed by Michael Levy of Ancient Lyre. His albums An Ancient Lyre, The Ancient Greek Tortoise Shell Lyre, and The Ancient Egyptian Harp are available from all major digital music stores and streaming sites.

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HOF Episode 10: Hombres de Maíz (Mesoamerica)

Of all the food discoveries made across the ancient world, few are more impressive than the domestication and then nixtamlization of maize (corn) in the lands that would one day be called Mexico and Central America.

Mesoamerica is one of just three places where urban civilization evolved from scratch. Come listen, and be amazed how it happened.

Music for this episode performed by  Ricardo Lozano and Jorge Ramos. Continue reading “HOF Episode 10: Hombres de Maíz (Mesoamerica)”

HOF Episode 9: Raw and Cooked (China)

What does it mean to be a raw (barbarian) person vs. a cooked (civilized) person? To find out, our culinary and historical journey heads east. Far East, to the lands of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. Ancient China.

Guzheng music for this episode performed by   musician Bei Bei in Los Angeles, California and by Sound of China Guzheng Instruments Continue reading “HOF Episode 9: Raw and Cooked (China)”

HOF Episode 8: Hunger and Collapse (Mesopotamia and Bronze Age)

No civilization lasts forever.  In fact, it’s kind of a miracle any starts at all.  The conditions must be exactly right for people to come together into urban environments.  So like an overextended, teetering Jenga tower, it’s not if but when the whole system will fall, as it did again and again across history.

Come listen as we go back to explore the Neolithic, the history of Mesopotamia after Sumer, and finally the Bronze Age, to understand the riddle of why the rise of civilizations is so tied to their collapse.

Theme music by  Michael Levy of Ancient Lyre. This rendition of the Hurian Hymn, the oldest known piece of sheet music, and the whole album “An Ancient Lyre” and much more is available from all major digital music stores and streaming sites.

 

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HOF Episode 7: Age of the Aegean (Greece)

Here we are at last, on the shores of Greece.

It’s a brief retelling of Aegean history, a story you’ve heard before, though perhaps not from a chef’s point of view.  Come for the history, stay for the foods that made them special.  By mastering the sea, the olive, and the grape vine, the Greeks found their own winds toward civilization.

Music by Michael Levy of Ancient Lyre. His original composition “Plato’s Symposium” and the whole album The Ancient Greek Tortoise Shell Lyre and much more are available from all major digital music stores and streaming sites.

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Quick-Pickled Fish and Chopped Salad

Here we have a dish that is inspired by Egypt, but  is not an actual Egyptian recipe.  There are no Egyptian recipes. They either didn’t write any, or we haven’t found them.

But through paintings, textual references, and actual meals left behind for archeologists to discover, we can still infer a lot about Ancient Egyptian cuisine.

River fish, particularly mullet, was probably important for rich and poor alike, and Egyptian morticians/chefs worked together to discover the secrets of pickling both food and corpses.  Pickled fish not only allowed for preservation of a natural resource, it was considered quite a delicacy.

This fish is what I’m calling “Quick pickled.” It’s really more of a poached fish, but by doing it in vinegar you can achieve a mild, not too intense pickle flavor that make the fish a nice topper for salads or other cold sides. Continue reading “Quick-Pickled Fish and Chopped Salad”