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The Oldest Enduring Dish


IndyRob
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I'll try to keep this simple. What dish do we (or many people) still eat today whose origins are most distant in time. To qualify it has to be a specific preparation that has maintained its character. Not something general like roasted meat, pasta, beer, olive oil, etc.

I'm starting the bidding at 700 (oops, make that 400) years ago.

Edited by IndyRob (log)
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A mess of pottage, i.e, lentil soup? I'm pretty sure the birthright-for-pottage transaction takes place in Genesis. Does that count as a specific preparation, or still too generic?

I'm placing my bets on congee, the traditional Asian rice porridge. It's just rice that's been boiled in water for a few hours. While most Western and Middle Eastern food has either changed a great deal in preparation or is made from relatively new strains of plants, rice hasn't changed much in nearly ten thousand years.

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Fruitcake.

And the first one is still circulating, too.

Seriously, though, I'll nominate griddled bread, like the Asian fried bread with scallions. Flour, water, salt, rolled thin into a circle, maybe some spice or veg to make it snazzy, then the whole deal is fried on a griddle with oil. These things always feel ancient when I make them.

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I wasn't being sarcastic. Fruitcake.

Fruitcake is likely the first dish in the sense that we think of a "dish" that involves kitchen skills more advanced than fire and a spit.

Bread and beer are the oldest written recipes. It's unknown which came first. I'll throw my hat in with beer, mainly because that's what I do for a living.

But a bread made with gathered fruits and nuts, all macerated with juice, honey or mead would be just about the most nutritious thing early man could consume. And it's shelf stable. Not that early man had shelves. But the analogy still works. After harvest, a bread supplemented with alcohol-soaked fruit would not only last for months, but still be tasty for months.

So, my answer stands. Fruitcake. We ate it 8,000+ years ago. We're still eating it today. AND we started prepping it at the same time of the year, with similar ingredients.

Fruitcake.

Any nutritional anthropologists out there want to chime in?

Edited by ScoopKW (log)

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Porridge plain or with meats or fish, made with various seeds and grains around the world.

Even in places where there was no pottery making, people found ways to cook in vessels such as baskets.

The Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest cooked in baskets by filling them with water and dropping in stones heated in a fire.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I wasn't being sarcastic. Fruitcake.

Fruitcake is likely the first dish in the sense that we think of a "dish" that involves kitchen skills more advanced than fire and a spit.

Bread and beer are the oldest written recipes. It's unknown which came first. I'll throw my hat in with beer, mainly because that's what I do for a living.

But a bread made with gathered fruits and nuts, all macerated with juice, honey or mead would be just about the most nutritious thing early man could consume. And it's shelf stable. Not that early man had shelves. But the analogy still works. After harvest, a bread supplemented with alcohol-soaked fruit would not only last for months, but still be tasty for months.

So, my answer stands. Fruitcake. We ate it 8,000+ years ago. We're still eating it today. AND we started prepping it at the same time of the year, with similar ingredients.

Fruitcake.

Any nutritional anthropologists out there want to chime in?

Fruitcake? Are we talking about the same product? Refined sugars, preserved exotic fruits, doused with distilled liquor? 8000+ years?

If we're talking about that loose an interpretation, we're back to porridges and soups!

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To keep the punters happy in North America, I'm going for burger or as it was called in Apicius (4-5 AD): Isicia Omentata.

I love this guy. He hears that there are great shrimp to be had off the North African coast so he charters a ship, goes there, and before they even make landfall he catches a shrimp, tastes it, and says "Meh, turn the ship around.".

I'm looking for a specific preparation here (but not necessarily without variation). We know much about what grains were available when and where, and presumably they're all cooked in some form. So boiled rice (however long) isn't specific enough. Isicia Omentata may arguably be a burger, but if so, it had to be reinvented. I was asking about dishes that have endured to the present.

And I'm going to suggest that bread isn't a dish even though people at various times have subsisted primarily on it.

I think fruitcake would have to be more specific because the ancient Roman version is very different from the one baked in the 18th century that we keep mailing back and forth.

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Bread isn't a dish? That's an odd rule. Totally ruins my suggestion of unleavened bread. Let's say something akin to naan or chapaati. Then again, I can't suggest spit roast either. Or what amounts to barbecued fish, raw oysters and such. Boiled meat. Dried meat--the most basic form of charcuterie. Root vegetables and meats baked in coals.

I'm not sure about lentils. We cultivated them early but I'm not sure how heavily they featured in the hunter-gatherer diet. Then again, if you're not going to accept roast meat or stew because they're too general a concept--and I get that, specific dishes and all--maybe that automatically excludes stuff from before agriculture and metalwork began.

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This appears to be an insoluble problem, then.

Either a dish is based on indigenous ingredients, and ancient technique, and likely to be very primal/basic, or it's going to have been adapted to newly available imported goods (spices, vegetables, domesticated animals...)

You've eliminated "bread" as too basic, ditto congee, roasted meat...what's left?

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Isicia Omentata may arguably be a burger, but if so, it had to be reinvented. I was asking about dishes that have endured to the present.

Try looking at this dish in Google images. You will find a lot of pictures. The Apicius cookbook has been available since it was produced: my surmise would be that it has been produced since that time in one form or another. Surely you are not going to ask for proof that it was produced in every century since?

Oh and by the way, I think like many others there have been dishes that have been around much longer, except not documented.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I'm talking about specific dishes like Spaghetti Carbonara, Eggs Benedict, Pommes Anna, Beef Stroganoff or Egg Drop Soup. Not necessarily an entree - Chocolate Chip Cookies would work, but not just 'cookies' or 'biscuits'. Perhaps it has to have its own distinguishing name.

The example I was alluding to was pastizzi which I discovered was suprisingly old according to Wikipedia's Sfogliatelle entry:

Archaeologists say old merchant ledgers list pastizzi even before the time of the knights who built Valletta, the capital city of Malta, which was started in 1566.

I've noticed that most of our western dishes come from the renaissance or later. I'm guessing that the eventual winner will be from China, but I might be surprisd.

I myself am uncomfortable excluding specific breads, but it's just such a tangled web. They evolve so subtley.

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This is good. From scanning the timeline I think French Toast is the first thing that clearly fits all the criteria. We're still enjoying it today in the same form and can trace it back from the French and into the roman via Pain a la Romaine, and back to Apicius.

Marshmallows gave me pause. It's a specific preparation, but not a dish. Fried Chicken is close, but I'd argue that, at least in the US, Southern Fried Chicken is what we call fried chicken. I've read conflicting reports about its origins, so its hard to trace.

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If you're curious about documented dishes, you could start with old cookbooks such as "Le Viandier de Taillevent" circa late 1300's.

I'm sure if you researched some of the dishes you'd find he mostly documented dishes which were made long before he published it.

Although many of the proteins have fallen out of favor (e.g., peacock), there are recipes for soups, potages, apple tarts, and roasted meats you could likely find on a menu somewhere today.

I also remember reading that Jordan Almonds are likely one of the oldest desserts.

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I`m going to nominate Woolly Mammoth Tartare.

Most of the dishes mentioned here (beer, bread, gruels of various kinds) are grain preparations and so only arose with farming. The oldest dishes must have been made by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Perhaps pemmican qualifies as a `dish` and since it is made of meat and berries could be truly ancient.

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Hot Chocolate?

I'm inclined to disqualify beverages, but this is kind of worthy of an 'honorable mention' because it is interesting. Arguably, it is 2000 years old, and how different could various hot chocolate drinks be? Well, maybe a lot. But if I were a 1st century roman sitting down on a chilly mornng with my not-yet-misnamed french toast, I sure would love me some hot chocolate to go with it.

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