Archeologists have found what is thought to be the world’s oldest cookbook—small clay tablets written in the Akkadian language. The tablets date back to at least 1700 BC and belong to Yale University’s collection of Babylonian artifacts. The recipes feature various spicy meat stews and vegetable stews cooked in iron pots or simmered in covered clay dishes.
Chefs who have studied the old recipes note that onions, leeks, and garlic are featured in the spicy stews along with salt, cumin, olive oil, and rue. The meat stew recipes call for adding rather than skimming off fat. Perhaps they ate smaller portions?
The tablets list various kinds of flatbread that were baked in conical-shaped clay ovens. A meal was considered complete with a main dish, bread and drink. Flatbreads with various inclusions baked on the oven floor or stuck to the sides of the oven. Pots of vegetables simmered at the opening of the oven.
It is not surprising that clay ovens have been a part of cooking and baking for thousands of years. The ovens made efficient use of limited fuel. A little wood made a hot fire, and the heat wasn’t wasted or lost. Breads cooked quickly at high oven temperatures. Then vegetable soups simmered in pots and meats baked in covered cookers as the oven temperature reduced.
Chef/scholars say the ancient recipes aren’t for the novice cook because they don’t include much in the way of technique, measurement or timing. They may have been notes for experienced royal chefs.