Good day to everyone. Here’s an appetizer for our blog post today. That’s right, today we’ll be discussing about food. Food is such an important part of every civilization and culture. The type of cuisine people eat are subjected to their location, tradition and even social status. Just by studying food alone, we will be able to learn about the many differences between countries and their people. Take Singapore for example. Here at home, we are a melting pot of different races and religions. Known famously as a food paradise, our food choices are, needless to say, diverse. We are all often spoilt for choices ranging from Laksa, Roti Prata and Rojak to crowd favourites like Chicken rice, Nasi Lemak and Chili Crab, all of which show off a little part of our culture and heritage.
So are you hungry for more? We sure hope you are, because we are about to bring all of you back on a gastronomical journey to the past with our specially crafted menu that combines some of the most unusual dishes in ancient civilizations.
Just a disclaimer, the food shown below can be graphic and may not be as enticing as the ones above.
Main Course 1. Cockentrice
If you love both pork and chicken, this is the dish for you! Originating in the Middle Ages (5th – 15th Century), cockentrice features the top half and front of a capon (castrated and fattened chicken) sewn to the back of a pig or vice versa so that you can enjoy the best of both worlds. After being sewn and stuffed, it will be roasted and covered with batter. A favourite of the Tudors, the Cockentrice is fit for royalty in medieval England.
A favourite of the Romans during the 6th Century, dormice were considered a delicacy. Dormice was typically filled with minced pork and pounded with pepper before being cooked in an oven. This delicacy was commonly eaten by the rich to show off one’s wealth or “conspicuous consumption”.
3. Tecuitlatl (Spirulina)
One for the vegetarians, this dish features dried algae leaves, served with maize and a sauce which is a mixture of chili and tomato sauce. A great source of nutrition for the Ancient Aztecs in the 12tht Century, it is otherwise known as Spirulina and contains up to 70% proteins in addition to being a good source of Vitamin B. It is a dietary supplement that is able to grow in alkaline conditions such as salt water. Nowadays, it comes in both powder and tablet form in a bid to remove its fishy smell and some ways of consuming it include mixing it in with smoothies to make it more palatable.
Condiments Garum (Liquamen)
This savory or umami condiment is a fermented fish sauce made from salt, herbs and dried fish. After being left under the sun for up to 3 months, the stomach acid of the dried fish will break down its bodies and leave behind brown goo. High in monosodium glutamate, the Romans used garum as a sauce, dip and salt substitute in their food. The Romans fermented their sauce with much lesser salt than modern day versions and this released more proteins, making it more nutritious. Fish sauce is still popular in today’s context and an example would be in Vietnamese cuisine where it is often used to accompany the noodle dish, pho.
Dessert Ptcha (Calf Feet Jelly)
And now for dessert, something that most of us find hard to say no to. Here we have a Ashkenazic delicacy that originated in Turkey in the 14th century. Calf hooves and leg bones are boiled for hours in a broth and cooled in a pan until it is gelatinous before being served with vinegar. Essentially gelatin made out of meat, it was renowned as being very nutritious and served as a good meal for sick people.
But of course, what is a good meal without some beer? Beer brewing began in Sumeria, Southern Mesopotamina from as early as 10,000 BCE. Bippar (twice-baked barley bread) was used to brew the beer and this led to it being as thick as porridge and drunk through a straw.
There was even a God, Ninkasi, dedicated to overseeing its manufacture. In fact, the Sumerian Gods were such huge fans of beer that they were known to get drunk occasionally.
Perhaps by now your once ravenous appetite has been slightly deterred after some of those photos or maybe you’ve worked up an even greater appetite. One thing’s for sure, we can see that different cultures indeed have varying palettes throughout history. We may not be able to appreciate the types of cuisines that other cultures term as delicacies, but as the saying goes: “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”. The unchangeable fact is that regardless of who we are, where and when we come from, we are all united for our love for good food.
Bon Appetit !