Book Review: A Culinary Journey through Time

A Culinary Journey through Time: A Cookery Book with Recipes from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages,
by Sabine Karg, Regula Steinhauser-Zimmermann, and Irmgard Bauer.
Price: 20 euros

A Culinary Journey through Time is a must have for adventurous cooks, European history enthusiast, and period writers.  The recipes in the book are based on actual archeological finds and analysis of food remains found in cook pots and the charred food remains found near hearths during archaeological excavations.  All recipes are marked by period: Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman Times, Viking Age, and Middle Ages.  Also, recipes are color coded by season according to when ingredients are naturally available.

I first came across this book while doing research for a fantasy novel set during Hallstatt periods C & D.  The Moscow City Library acquired a copy via inter-library loan and I loved the experience of dining on the foods of ancient cultures so much that I wanted a copy for myself.  I’ve tested many of the recipes and the resulting dishes even won approval of my son who announced, “This is so good you’d never know it came from the Iron Age.”  It’s even more fun when completing the recipes outside via Dutch oven and campfire cookery and would be a great way to teach history and cooking to 4-H and Scouting groups.  Also, it makes for interesting dinner conversation to say, “We’re eating dishes from the Stone Age tonight.”

The only recipe that didn’t work was Troll Cream (autumn—Viking Age).  The recipe calls for whisking cranberries and egg whites in a bowl until light and airy.  I only managed to fling egg-coated cranberries around the kitchen, which makes cheap entertainment for small children and dogs, but will not result in anything becoming light and airy.  However, if you put the cranberries in a cauldron (a Dutch oven works well) with a little water and heat the cranberries until they pop before proceeding, the end result resembles cream and is delicious.

The book was not available on Amazon (US) and my local bookseller, BookPeople of Moscow wasn’t able to get a copy from their distributors, either.  In order to obtain a copy I had to track down one of the authors.  Thankfully, copies were available in Europe.  I passed the information to my bookseller who then managed to get me a copy.  (Brick & mortar beats online retailing every time!)  The book is definitely worth the trouble.

A Culinary Journey through Time is available in print and e-book in three languages, Danish, German, and English.  All editions can be ordered directly from Communicating Culture, which is funded by the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Higher Education and the Museum für Urgeschichte(n) Zug, Switzerland.

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