Babylonian Cookery

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Babylonian cookery by which is meant that of the Mesopotamians in what is called the Old Babylonian period, has been the subject of recent research, based on a study of three tablets of ancient cuneiform text. These, which are dated to around 1700 BC and were probably found in the south of Mesopotamia, constitute between them a collection of recipes, perhaps the oldest surviving one.

Eveline van der Steen (1995) gives reasons for thinking that these recipes were intended for use in a religious context; and that what would otherwise be puzzling features of them can be explained on the assumption that they are all for versions of a meat-in-sauce dish which would be served to a god in his temple, accompanied by bread (probably mixed barley and wheat) and date cakes, etc. The god (probably Marduk in this instance, as he was the city god of Babylon) would eat behind closed curtains. Leftovers would go to the king.