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Cooking like it's 1700 BC

April 3, 2011

Last weekend my mom and I hosted a fundraiser for the film I'm making about Iraqi farmers in our barn in Oregon. She donated 20% of the weekend’s rug sales to the project, and I
cooked up an interpretative Babylonian Feast.  Nawal Nasrallah (you may remember her from Season Four, when we
cooked up some delicious Iraqi cuisine…) wrote about ancient Iraqi cuisine in her cookbook Delights from the Garden of Eden. Using her descriptions as a guide, I tried my hand at three dishes, talked about in a tablet from 1700 BCE. The first, and most ambituous, was a savory bird pie- the meat was cooked in milk and mashed up leeks, garlics and onions. To make the crust I soaked barley flour in milk, and added the leek/onion puree.  I also made sweet and sour beet stew (honey and vinegar) and turnip stew (with lots of herb). To supplement the dishes talked about in the tablet I also made bulgur, freekeh, and an herb and chickpea salad.   In college I remember some friends from my ancient Greek class and I started a short-lived "Classics Club," one of our only activities was a Roman movie night, along with a traditional Roman dish: green beens cooked in fresh coriander, cumin and lemon (it's still one of my favorite ways to eat green beens).  There is something so thrilling to me about cooking from ancient documents, it could be my nerdy side coming out in full-force, but on a practical level I like it because it inspires new flavor combinations and cooking techniques.  The night before the feast we had a power outage, and I was half hoping I would have to cook the whole meal over a fire, but alas-- the electricity came back on...

 

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