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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

These caldrons were sometimes of great value


Nature

seems indeed, to have blessed her first children with an abundance of the good things of life!

It does not appear that the flesh of domestic animals was eaten to any great extent, and the inference is that it was beyond the means of most persons, for when warriors, upon an expedition, were able to obtain it at the expense of others, they freely indulged their appetites. After their victories they killed and cut up sheep and oxen, and roasted the joints over the embers of a wood fire. Sometimes they boiled the joints or the whole body in a huge pot or caldron, over a dead wood fire--on which, also, pieces of the flesh were fried.

Amongst the upper classes mutton appears to have been the favorite meat. Chickens were also considered a great delicacy.

As the races of those days, with the exception probably of a few people closely confined in the cities, were great hunters, a plentiful supply of game was usually obtainable--venison, antelopes' flesh, hares, partridges, etc. The flesh of the wild boar was also eaten, but there is no evidence to prove that the animal was domesticated with the intention of using it for food.

According to Herodotus, some of the Babylonian tribes ate nothing but fish, dried in the sun, pounded in a mortar until the fibres would pass through a fine cloth, and then kneaded into a sort of bread and baked. At first a prejudice

against this species of food seems to have existed, but later it was held in much esteem. The supply of both fresh and salt water fish was practically unlimited.

Locusts were also eaten with great gusto.

The culinary arrangements and operations are not yet very clearly defined by the chroniclers.

The fireplace, built presumably of well-burned bricks, was open at the top, about two feet in height, and occasionally covering an area of many square feet. Whether it was of square or cylindrical shape does not appear. Over the top was set or suspended a large bronze caldron.

These caldrons were sometimes of great value. They were usually circular in shape, flat or nearly flat at the bottom, without feet, and furnished at the rim with ears or rings to receive an arched handle or a hooked chain. Many belonging to the wealthier classes were embossed with flowers and otherwise richly ornamented. They were commonly known as "seething pots." They varied from eighteen inches to five feet in height, and from two and a half to six feet in diameter.

Roasting was perhaps the most common mode of preparing meat, but it was also broiled, slices being cut from the divided joints and transfixed with wooden spits.

For delicate operations, a fire of coal was later on made in a portable brazier. The oven then used was cylindrical in form, much deeper than wide, and made of fire-burnt bricks or indurated clay.

In the houses of the wealthy, and the palaces of the monarchs, the cooks, though usually slaves, were treated with much respect. They were distinguished by the wearing of a cap (not unlike the tiara of the reigning sovereign, except that it was devoid of jewels and unsurmounted by an apex or peak), and they had numerous assistants to relieve them from all the menial labor.

The cook's knife, closely resembling the modern two-bladed dagger, was usually made of bronze, often thickly gilded, with a much ornamented hilt carved from the hard black wood of the Syrian terebinth. Some, however, were fashioned from bone, partly covered with metal and adorned with pins and studs of gold. Others had handles of ivory carved to represent the foreparts of bulls and other animals, and many were embellished with precious stones. Quite a number were of copper, with hollow handles.


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