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ISBN: PB: 9780226067346

ISBN: HB: 9780226067353

University of Chicago Press

April 2011

152 pp.

22.6x15.2 cm



Oldest Cuisine in the World

Cooking in Mesopotamia

In this intriguing blend of the commonplace and the ancient, Jean Bottero presents the first extensive look at the delectable secrets of Mesopotamia. Bottero's broad perspective takes us inside the religious rites, everyday rituals, attitudes and taboos, and even the detailed preparation techniques involving food and drink in Mesopotamian high culture during the second and third millennia BCE, as the Mesopotamians recorded them.

Offering everything from translated recipes for pigeon and gazelle stews, the contents of medicinal teas and broths, and the origins of ingredients native to the region, this book reveals the cuisine of one of history's most fascinating societies. Links to the modern world, along with incredible recreations of a rich, ancient culture through its cuisine, make Bottero's guide an entertaining and mesmerizing read.


"[Bottero] introduces us to the tastes and methods of long-dead palace cooks, recapturing the gastronomy, rather than recipes, of a brilliant people" – New Scientist

"A fascinating account for the layman of the cuisine of Mesopotamia. It weaves the poetry of 'The Epic of Gilgamesh' and the shards of pottery and cooking utensils that archaeologists have uncovered into a fascinating picture... This book succeeds in bringing to life what meals must have been like, how much these ancient people were like present-day foodies, and how central cuisine has been to civilizations stretching back in time" – Juliette Rossant, Super Chef Blog

"Bottero crafts a much more comprehensive picture of the culinary scene – both ritual and everyday – in ancient Mesopotamia than exists of any other culture that flourished at the same time... 'The Oldest Cuisine in the World' is a thorough and absorbing re-creation of the culinary culture of the ancient Mesopotamians. The breadth of the material covered is impressive and imparts to the reader a deep respect for the culinary sophistication of such an early people" – Gastronomica

"In this well-structured volume, Bottero shares the vast scope of his knowledge of ancient Mesopotamian cuisine. Although meticulously documented for the scholar and student, its lucid text also appeals directly to the adventurous home cook whether he or she wishes to recreate a meal of muddulu (salted meat) or a vegetarian sipku (porridge). If it is true that 'we are what we eat' then this book brings us closer to the human side of those who produced one of the first great civilizations to evolve on our planet'" – Albert Leonard, author of "Ancient Naukratis"

"A truly fascinating work that gives us a lucid view of the cuisine and culinary habits of the ancient Mesopotamians".The Oldest Cuisine in the World" provides a breathtaking window on the world's oldest cuisine by a renowned historian of ancient Mesopotamia" – Kenneth Kiple, editor of "The Cambridge World History of Food"

"The discovery of kitchen recipes of Ancient Mesopotamia opens a tiny window, and we are lucky that the eminent French cuneiform scholar Jean Bott[5]ero does not only offer these recipes in translation but also in their context: from the kitchen and utensils, to the meaning of eating and drinking in cult and feasts. The book is a must for everyone who knows that the art of cooking offers an important contribution to the appreciation of a culture" – Hans J. Nissen, author of "The Early History of the Ancient Near East"

"Bottero has an exceptional ability to call to life his vision of an ancient Mesopotamia. This treatise uses cooking and eating as a device for bringing the Mesopotamian ancestors to life. The experience ranges from the palpable realities of pots and cauldrons to the intellectual reality of metaphors of food and eating as ways of describing living and ceasing to live. Bottero has written the authoritative work on the culinary texts" – Matthew Wolfgang Stolper, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago