Our ancestors ate a variety of foods that might surprise you. For example, roasted peacock was once a popular Christmas dish even though turkey is more common today. However, there are still some ancient foods that you can actually enjoy today because we still have their recipes!
Bright Side has collected a list of ancient delicacies that you can still whip up today! Don’t forget to see our surprising bonus!
1. Babylonian Mersu
Mersu is often translated as “cake,” but this dish probably wasn’t a baked good. Instead of being a dish made from dates, this dessert was possibly made from candied dates. One of the earliest known recipes for the dish combines fruit with figs, raisins, minced apples, garlic, oil, cheese, wine, and syrup. The dish was believed to be used in religious rituals as an offering to the gods.
2. Greek kebabs
If you like kebabs, then you’re are in good company. Meat that has been cooked on a stick has been a beloved meal since the time of Ancient Greeks who have been enjoying kebabs since at least around 1700 B.C.E. There are variations of the kebab around the world, like the Chinese “chuan” that is believed to be based on the Greek dish and was eaten as early as 220 C.E.
3. Roman honey cakes
This dish is easy for people who aren’t master chefs because it has 3 simple ingredients: honey, flour, and eggs. It helps that it originated in a time when food was not always easy to come by, so simplicity is the rule, not the exception, and there’s no reason you can’t add your own touch to this dish. Modern Romans have even adopted the honey cake for modern festivals and celebrations like Christmas.
4. Roman scrambled egg drop soup
People like scrambled eggs and egg drop soup so it makes sense to combine them as the ancient Romans actually did. Ancient Romans often used eggs in their dishes — this one sort of works as an egg drop soup in chicken stock with spinach. While likely a main dish in its conception, it can be eaten as an appetizer today or even a drink if you dare to live dangerously.
5. Roman globuli
This dish is basically the sweeter cousin of fried cheese curds thanks to the added honey and poppy seeds. Ancient Romans enjoyed this dish called globuli during various religious events like the Feast of Lupercalia and the Saturnalia Festival. As mentioned, Romans loved food they could prepare in a snap and this is no exception.
6. Mesoamerican tamales
Tamales are a beloved dish even today, but they’ve been around longer than you might think. First eaten sometime between 8,000 and 5,000 B.C.E., tamales have been eaten in some form by Olmecs, Toltecs, Aztecs, and later, Mayas. Steamed inside banana husks, they were easy to eat on-the-go and were basically early “fast food”.
7. Chinese dried beef
Of all the contributions China has given to the world, beef jerky is probably the most world-changing. Yes, researchers actually found sealed pots of dried beef, proving that it was a dish eaten among the ancient Chinese. Technically, it did not resemble the beef jerky people purchase at supermarkets today, but it’s still a start.
8. Chinese bone broth
Bone broth has become a popular health food due to its benefits like helping with joint pain and inflammation. Ancient Chinese people also enjoyed making similar soups, with researchers finding cookware filled with liquid and bone fragments dating over 2,000 years.
9. Greek savillum
It just makes sense that even early humans would have a version of something as wonderful as cheesecake. In ancient Greece and Rome, an early ancestor to the modern cheesecake existed called savillum. Traditionally made with honey, flour, and soft cheese, it was often flavored with lemon or orange zest.
10. Byzantine garum
Without proper sauce, aren’t we all just eating meat and vegetables? Ancient Byzantium, Greece, and Rome all enjoyed a sauce made from fermented fish called garum. Various types of fish were used to make the sauce, ranging from sardines to tuna, mostly fatty fish, and there were even factories that helped to develop the sauce.
11. Roman Isicia Omentata
Even burgers are older than we think. This Roman dish, Isicia Omentata, wasn’t served with bacon or cheese but is around 1,500 years old. The dish was made by mixing minced meat with white wine, pine nuts, and various condiments including the aforementioned garum.
12. Egyptian flatbreads
An early form of flatbread could be found in ancient Egypt. This bread was made using 3 main parts: leavening (like brewery grain), water, and flour (usually made from barley, millet or wheat). There could also be some add-ons like honey, fruits, meats, and even egg washes.
13. Roman honey eggs
The Ancient Roman ova spongia ex lacte, or eggs with honey, is essentially the world’s first omelet. The dish is made by mixing milk and eggs, cooking it in oil, and adding honey as a topping.
14. Mesoamerican drinking chocolate
Chocolate originated in the Americas but it was quite different from what you are used to. Called xocolatl, it was normally served as a liquid. Obviously, hot chocolate is the modern cousin to this drink, but the ancient version was usually bitter and spicy with green chili pepper giving it a little kick.
15. Roman panis quadratus
Panis quadratus is a Roman bread known for its circular form that came into being once yeast became popular in Roman recipes. There is normally a linear grove around this bread, likely caused by circular baking pans in the past, but you can replicate this look with twine. Traditionally, it was eaten at both morning and evening meals.
Most of the foods we listed can only be recreated, but here is a food item that has been fossilized so you can at least see it, but please don’t try to eat it. Yes, this bread is actually a remnant of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Roman bread like this is where we get the expression, “bread and circuses” from.
Have you tried any of these foods? Do you know any similar ancient foods that have survived to today? Let us know in the comments!
Preview photo credit Jebulon / Wikimedia Commons, Tavola Mediterranea / Facebook