Instructions were found on an ancient Babylonian tablet from the Mesopotamian region (what is today known as the regions of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey) that detailed how to make a type of lamb stew. But those instructions read more like a list of ingredients than an actual recipe. After Yale University scholars were able to translate the instructions, they found that it said this: “Meat is used. You prepare water. Add fine-grained salt, barley cakes, onions, leeks, and milk. You crush and add leek and garlic.
Sounds pretty simple, right? But there are definitely missing pieces. The only thing is, you can’t ask the chef to reveal the missing pieces because the recipe writer has been dead for over 4,000 years. Lamb stew is just one example of an ancient dish that’s been around for thousands of years. As it turns out, many dishes have been around for just as long, maybe even longer. If you’re curious as to which meals are the oldest in the world, then you’re in for a treat
Roasted Barley and Herbs: Since 8000 BC
This recipe for roasted barley and herbs is likely the oldest food recipe that we know of today. It was discovered on one of the Yale Babylonian tablets. The main ingredient of this antique recipe is barley, which is a popular cereal grain that’s grown in moderate climates. It is actually one of the first-ever farmed grains that go as far back as 10,000 years ago.
Stew: Around Since 6000 BC
Stew is really just a beautiful mess of vegetables, meat or poultry, and a bunch of other ingredients, that’s cooked slowly over a gentle heat. Is anybody else’s mouth-watering? Well, the practice of simmering meat in liquids over a fire until tender and delicious dates back 7,000 to 8,000 years. And that means that stew is by far one of the world’s oldest food recipes.
Stew: Referenced in the Bible
The Old Testament is full of references to this type of food. For example, in Genesis, Esau and his brother Jacob paid the dowry that Isaac sustained when he married Rebecca by offering up a pot of meat stew. There is also more than one mention of lentil and grain-based stews.
In the 1500s, the Aztecs participated in a gruesome practice of preparing stews with human meat and chillis (also known as tlacatlaolli). But whether or not they actually ate it is up for debate. Pottage, also referred to as a thick stew of vegetables, meats, grains, and fish has been consumed all over Europe from the Neolithic Age (about 12,000 years ago). It was mostly known as the poor man’s food due to the easy availability of the ingredients.
Nettle Pudding: Around Since 6000 BC
Nettles are edible, but they’re not really considered yummy. But hunters across Britain (in particular) say they’re great as a soup or in a risotto (but on one caveat: that they’re prepared in a way that takes out their famous sting). The oldest recipe in the United Kingdom dates back 8000 years and involves nettles as the main ingredient. And by the way, “pudding,” in this context, is used in its older sense of the word meaning savory rather than a desert-like food.