Guest Contributor: Sid Simpson
Amongst all of the ways in which we can connect with our ancestors, the most realistic, authentic, and continuous are often overlooked. When we examine the historical record and trace it to ourselves, we see that continuity expressed not in romanticized warrior ways, but rather in the kitchen. Those traditions and flavors our grandmothers loved us with are the heart of the family and are some of the few real connections we have to ancestral ways. We connect to the Thanksgiving memories of our own experiences in a much more concrete and meaningful way than we can ever do to the centuries past names in a legal document or saga. And yet, each family recipe is a culmination of many generations of stirred pots. Taste, cravings, and satiation are a timeless and universal aspect of the human condition. Rather than seeking connection searching out your latest tattoo pattern from an archeological report, key into the Granny you knew and the ones before her by getting in the kitchen and whipping up some good food that would have been appreciated by all of your ancestors.
We often think of ancient people sitting around a fire, eating hunks of delicious meat cut straight from the roasting spit in the center of the hall. But the truth is roasted meats were usually served for special occasions in the ancient world. The most common foods served, even today, are stews, soups, and pulses. Delicious blends of multiple ingredients are slowly simmered over moderate heat. Not only is this convenient for people coming and going on different schedules, but it is nutritionally beneficial to leach out all nutrients via liquid immersion as opposed to losing nutrients through liquid evaporation and loss over an open flame. Soups can be stretched to feed many and continuously added to in order to prevent food waste. Soups are economical. Soup is easy on those with upset stomachs or bad teeth. Soup is smart. And combined with dairy foods (the primary protein source of ancient Europe), beer, and bread it became the fuel for thousands of generations.
Want to cook like your ancestors? Want to do your Granny proud? Check out these ingredients from the historic record. It should be no surprise that many of the ingredients that were common in the past are still in daily use in the modern world. Pick a combination of ingredients from each box, throw them into a cauldron over a fire, let it simmer for a day or so, and you have supper. Don’t forget to add that special touch of spice your mother taught you. Experiment with it! Instead of barley in your stew, how about oats? Instead of apples in your oatmeal, how about ham? Break away from your modern sensibilities and experiment. Nurture your hearth and family with good food from your own hands.
What? You have no cauldron? Well, then, pull out your crock pot!
That’s right; every time a crock pot is used, an ancient culinary continuum is perpetuated.
Don’t forget to check out the companion reference!