Category Archives: Culinary

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Gullah Bacon Corn Muffins and the Gullah Geechee Saga

Southern cuisine has deep roots in Africa. One of the most vibrant cultures contributing to the South’s identity was actually one that evolved from unintended diversity.

The Gullah Geechee is a distinct group descended from slaves brought from West Africa to the coastal areas of the South in the early 18th century.  They were instrumental in building the wealth of the southern states for decades. However, when the Civil War loomed, and fearing anti-slavery retribution, many plantation owners moved inland for safety reasons, leaving slaves to fend for themselves on the coast islands. Out of this circumstance grew the Gullah Geechee culture, one with unique community, spirituality, farming, music, crafts and cuisine.

The origins of the names are somewhat shrouded. The name Gullah is possibly a truncating of Angola and Geechee may have come from the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia, although both find linguistic similarities in African tribal languages. Gullah is associated with residents of South Carolina, while Geechee those of Georgia. They live in an area referred to as the Gullah Coast reaching from Sandy Island, South Carolina, to Amelia Island, Florida.[1]

The Gullah Geechees’ West African ancestors were selected for enslavement because of their regions’ suitability for raising crops, especially rice, indigo and cotton, that were important to the southern economy. With similar climates in the American South to those in their native lands, the slaves were exceptionally skilled at working the land, and their efforts contributed substantially to the foundational wealth of the South’s plantation industry.

The Gullah language has a singular history as what linguists call an English-based creole language. It illustrates the way slavery so profoundly altered and created its own subculture:

Creoles arise in the context of trade, colonialism, and slavery when people of diverse backgrounds are thrown together and must forge a common means of communication….In the case of Gullah, the vocabulary is largely from the English “target language,” the speech of the socially and economically dominant group; but the African “substrate languages” have altered the pronunciation of almost all the English words, influenced the grammar and sentence structure, and provided a sizable minority of the vocabulary.

The British dominated the slave trade in the 18th century…. This hybrid language served as a means of communication between British slave traders and local African traders, but it also served as a lingua franca, or common language, among Africans of different tribes. Some of the slaves taken to America must have known creole English before they left Africa, and on the plantations their speech seems to have served as a model for the other slaves.[2]

In this melting pot of African and southern influence, the Gullah Geechee created their own society, not reflecting one culture, but drawing from a need for self-identity in their own defined space. According to Gullah expert and cookbook author Sallie Ann Robinson, the Gullah Geechee were “artists and makers, weaving stunning sweetgrass baskets for agricultural uses and cast nets for fishing. And their spiritual beliefs, combined with the praise melodies they inspired, helped sustain and guide them through conflict and heartache.”[3]

The Gullah Geechee farmers being so highly skilled, many crops of African origin were introduced and incorporated into the dishes now known as Southern cuisine. “Southern food and Gullah food are well connected,” Robinson explains. “When people didn’t know what to call Gullah, they called it Southern. It was shrimp and grits, fried chicken, collard greens, lima beans, cornbread, biscuits, gumbo, and cabbage. It was a little of everything.”[4]

So enjoy the recipe-with-a-past below knowing it came from far overseas across centuries of time to bring homemade goodness to your table. It certainly has a history to remember.

Coffin Point Praise House, St. Helena Island, South Carolina

Visit Geechee and Gullah Culture and Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor to explore more about the history, cuisine, music, crafts, religion and other attributes of the Gullah Geechee people, and learn how they are working to preserve, share and pass on their cherished heritage.

 

GULLAH BACON CORN MUFFINS

Recipe courtesy of Sallie Ann Robinson, Gullah Geechee – Southern Cast Iron

Cook Time 15-20 minutes

Serves: About 16

Filled with crisp, smoky bacon, these savory corn muffins are the perfect companion to any Southern supper.

Ingredients

  • 16 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 3 cups corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2½ cups warm milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted butter, to serve

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 3 (6-well) cast-iron muffin pans with baking spray with flour.
  2. Chop the bacon into small pieces; reserve 3 tablespoons. Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, cornmeal, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, then blend in the warm milk and melted butter. Combine with the flour mixture; fold in bacon pieces, mixing all together. Spoon mixture into prepared pans until wells are about three-fourths full; sprinkle with reserved 3 tablespoons bacon.
  4. Bake until tops are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm with butter for best taste.

 

 

[1] Geechee and Gullah Culture | New Georgia Encyclopedia (archive.org)

[2]  https://glc.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Gullah%20Language.pdf

[3] Gullah Geechee – Southern Cast Iron

[4] Ibid

Related:

https://antiquitynow.org/2015/09/02/bon-appetit-wednesday-sweet-and-easy-corn-on-the-cob/

https://antiquitynow.org/2014/06/04/bon-appetit-wednesday-grilled-butter-miso-corn/

https://antiquitynow.org/2014/02/02/super-bowl-2014-and-aztec-chocolate-caramel-popcorn-sweet-victory-all-around/

 

 

Throwback Thursday! Food on the Go, Pompeii Style

By Mosborne01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Pompeii is still dishing up its surprises. In December 2020 a significant find was announced after the expansion of an excavation site of a thermopolium.  For those not familiar with Pompeian fast food, that’s an establishment, one of possibly 150 in Pompeii, that served up the best of takeaway and sit-down eats. Yes, Pompeii had its eat-as-you-go devotees as we do today.

By Jebulon – Own work, CC0

The recent excavation of the thermopolium has revealed exuberantly painted and finely detailed frescoes that have excited the archaeological world and given Pompeii another reason to be ranked among the most important of international treasures. Of particular note is that the uncovered frescos were no mere decoration adorning the walls and counter of the thermopolium. Rather, they served as menus depicting the popular dishes that could be purchased. Since many of the clientele were illiterate and from poorer populations, the pictures indicated food choices; customers merely had to point to pictures to order. To see what the excitement is all about, take a look at the colorful drawings of daily fare, including fish and fowl, here. Listen to Massimo Osanna, who is Director General of National Museums, Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, and Director of Pompeii, describe the importance of the frescoes. Then revisit our Bon Appetit Wednesday! blog for more fascinating facts on thermopolia, their status in Pompeian culture and the menus that whetted the appetites of their patrons. Finally, flaunt your culinary chops by whipping up a dish from a recipe we included for a Pompeian staple.

Thousands of years haven’t changed our love of food nor it seems the business of life. There’s always something needing to be done and not enough time to do it. As those Pompeians would attest, tempus fugit (time flies). So follow the advice that served so many, so well, two thousand years ago. If you are hungry and in a hurry, get yourself to your own 21st century version of a thermopolium, celerius quam asparagi cocunter (faster than asparagus is cooked).

Further reading:

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/dig-of-pompeii-fast-food-place-reveals-ancient-tastes/5716251.html

Throwback Thursday! Beer Archaeology?! Yes, please.

Travis Rupp has the coolest job. He is a self-proclaimed “beer archaeologist” and I want to hang out with him. Obviously, at AntiquityNOW, we think archaeology is pretty fascinating. Digging up ancient toilets? Sign us up. Excavating an ancient village? We’re there. Meticulously and tediously removing the dust from a single ancient coin? We’d love to help. But, not everyone finds the past so exciting. However, we’re willing to bet, nearly everyone can agree there is something amazing and fun about recreating the drinks of the past. Who doesn’t want to cheers with a Viking-inspired beer or raise a glass of “Beersheba” from ancient Israel? Check out this article from NPR for all of the delicious details about Rupp and his quest for antiquity’s most fabulous brews: Beer Archaeologists Are Reviving Ancient Ales — With Some Strange Results.

And don’t miss our very own article about ancient beer. Did you know “ancient history reveals that, as far back as 4,000 years ago (and probably further), brewing was done primarily by women?” True story. Learn more here.

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Einkorn Banana Bread and the Tale of a 5,300 Year Old Mummy

For those of you who haven’t heard of einkorn wheat, you’re at least 9,500 years behind the curve. Einkorn is the world’s oldest cereal and “nature’s original wheat.”1  

The Fertile Crescent in the Middle East is aptly known as the Cradle of Civilization, an area recognized for such innovations as glass manufacturing, writing and the wheel. It’s also where agriculture first began, and the first written recording in 7,500 BCE of einkorn being planted as a domesticated crop.

Einkorn flourished as a staple crop for centuries. It was hardy and could grow in poor soil, similar to other ancient grains such as smelt and emmer.  Research shows that einkorn cultivation spread across the Middle East, Europe and into Russia. In fact, agriculture where grain production was central was one of the propelling forces that caused cities to form and great civilizations to grow as people became less nomadic. Over time einkorn evolved into a popular and versatile food that knew no social class. Even the pharaohs ate einkorn. However, during the Bronze Age einkorn production declined in favor of grains that were more prolific and easier to harvest.  But a surprising twentieth century discovery revived interest in the wheat and put the grain at the center of a 5,300 year old cold case (to employ modern crime nomenclature and, as you will see, a shameless pun).

Naturalistic reconstruction of Ötzi – South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

In September 1991 two German tourists, Helmut and Erika Simon, discovered a mummified body protruding from a melting glacier as they were hiking in the Italian Alps. Found in the Otzal Alps and dubbed Otzi the Iceman, he became the “best preserved prehistoric man discovered with his own equipment and clothing.”2. The find was remarkable for a number of reasons. He was determined to be Europe’s oldest mummy dating back to 3,300 BCE. He was in his everyday clothing carrying hunting and other tools, as opposed to being buried in a tomb with ceremonial dress and accompanying funereal objects as is so often the case with human remains. He sported visible tattoos on his body. He represents a moment in time of an ordinary life lived five millennia ago. Moreover, he is the “oldest intact human ever found. With the exception of missing toenails, all but one fingernail and an outer layer of skin, the Iceman is otherwise perfectly reserved.”3

Otzi had more secrets to give up. Scientists were able to determine his last meal. It was a serving of meat, an herb…and yes, bread made from finely ground einkorn.4

As to what caused Otzal’s death, it appears he was shot in the left shoulder with an arrow according to Swiss scientists who conducted multi-slice CT scans of the body. An artery must have been damaged and he bled to death, his body frozen until discovered centuries later. Definitely a cold case, with no culprit to be found.

It is interesting to note how in death Otzi has achieved his own kind of immortality. Otzi fever descended across the world in 1991 as word spread of this remarkable find.

After Otzi was discovered the world became caught up in Iceman mania. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine and other major publications. T-shirts and jewelry were sold with his sunken eyes beaming out. Pop songs were written about him. A German astrologer announced she was writing a book about her seánces with the Iceman. Other women clamored to be the first to be impregnated with sperm from Ötzi’s testicles. Mitochondrial DNA was extracted from Otzi’s bones. A company called Oxford Ancestors, for a fee, will compare your DNA with Otzi’s to see if you are related.5

Apparently, Otzi has that special something that neither time nor temperature can tamp down.

But let’s return to our discussion of einkorn. It also has a lineage that is remarkable. Due to the fact that einkorn wheat fell into disuse for centuries, the wheat itself has not been altered from its original state of 12,000 years ago. No hybrid, mutated or contaminated versions exist. Just einkorn as nature’s oldest and purest wheat. Today it claims credit for being a superfood. And there’s another bonus. Because it hasn’t been genetically altered, and due to its gluten structure that lacks certain high molecular weight glutenins that are present in other types of wheat, it is considered by some as the “good gluten.”6

So enjoy the taste of an ancient grain in the recipe that follows. As with all our Bon Appetit recipes, there is history in every bite.

1http://www.ancientgrains.com/einkorn-history-and-origin/

2 http://factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub362/item1496.html

3Ibid

4 https://www.einkorn.com/otzi-the-icemans-last-meal-included-einkorn-wheat-bread/

5 http://factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub362/item1496.html

6 https://jovialfoods.com/einkorn/a-good-gluten/

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

https://www.einkorn.com/einkorn-history/

RELATED

https://antiquitynow.org/2015/08/12/bon-appetit-wednesday-enjoy-another-ancient-grain-with-einkorn-flour-pancakes/

https://antiquitynow.org/2015/03/11/bon-appetit-wednesday-ezekiel-bread/

 

Einkorn Flour Banana Bread

Recipe courtesy of Greg Fleischaker, Greg Fly

Cook Time 2 hours, 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 medium ripe bananas
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose Einkorn
  • 1 cup whole wheat sprouted Einkorn
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and move shelf to lower middle portion of the oven.
  2. Warm the butter, almost melted, and cream with the sugar in a stand mixer while measuring out the remaining ingredients.
  3. Add the peeled ripe bananas, eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add the Einkorn wheat flour, baking soda and salt and mix thoroughly, batter should be thick but quite pourable.
  5. Pour into greased loaf pan.
  6. Place the pan into the oven and bake for about 50-60 minutes until well. browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean.

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Shrimp Avocado Salad…Courtesy of Our Ancestral Genes

A while back we posted a holiday recipe for eggnog that explained how 7,500 years or so ago, humans in the region between the central Balkans and central Europe developed “lactase persistence.” According to a study by Professor Mark Thomas of University College London (UCL) Genetics, Evolution and Environment, “Most adults worldwide do not produce the enzyme lactase and so are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose. However, most Europeans continue to produce lactase throughout their life, a characteristic known as lactase persistence. In Europe, a single genetic change (13,910*T) is strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have given people with it a big survival advantage.”1

Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Fish, Chips and Pompeii’s Fast Food Thermopolia

fish and chips

Image courtesy of An Italian in My Kitchen

Nowadays fast food comes in all forms throughout the world.  A life on the go means quick fare at affordable prices. Whether hamburgers, tacos, satay, samosas, crepes or today’s recipe of fish and chips, fast food is ubiquitous.

Modern convenience? Not if you take a page from Roman culinary history.

Thermopolia (s., thermopolium) were eateries found aplenty in the Roman Empire. In fact, Pompeii boasted around 150 thermopolia. A thermopolium was an open air room with an L-shaped counter distinguished by large storage urns called dolia containing dry edibles such as nuts.  Each day the thermopolium featured different dishes available for purchase. People could select such standard victuals as “coarse bread with salty fish, baked cheese, lentils and spicy wine.”1 Other fare included pizza (tomatoes were not yet brought to Europe at the time) made of cheese and onions, soups, pickles, eggs and ham.2 A tempting array of palate pleasers no doubt. And like our 21st century fast food menus, thermopolia  meals were based on their convenience and simplicity. Customers knew what to expect and would merely point to the blue plate specials they wanted. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! National Baking Month

It’s National Baking Month! This is the perfect time of year to enjoy a few of our delicious and ancient baked goods recipes. Red velvet cake and whoopee pies are yummy, but check out the recipes below to indulge in some sweet and educational baking fun!

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Um Ali

om_aliWe love Egyptian recipes! There are so many delicious ancient Egyptian foods, ingredients and dishes to explore and today we’re bringing you one more. Um Ali, also called Om Ali, is a sweet and creamy bread pudding dessert that has become a traditional modern Egyptian dessert. It brings so much joy to the palate, but it has a surprisingly dark history. It was actually created in the 13th century to celebrate the murder of Shajar al-Durr, a sultana. Click here to read the entire sordid affair.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be celebrating something so dark and dismal in order to enjoy this traditional sweet. It can be served cold or warm depending on the season and it’s made with ingredients you most likely have in your kitchen right now. For a fancier and more complex version, visit click here. Enjoy some Um Ali this holiday season!

p.s. Click here for a list of our other Egyptian recipe posts.

Um Ali

Ingredients

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar, divided
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  2. Place the pastry sheets in the baking dish and place the dish in the oven. Watch it closely. When the top layer turns crunchy and golden, remove it from the oven. Continue until all the sheets are cooked.
  3. Preheat the oven’s broiler.
  4. In a bowl, combine walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, raisins, coconut and 1/4 cup sugar. Break cooked pastry into pieces and stir into nut mixture. Spread mixture evenly in 9×13-inch dish.
  5. Bring milk and 1/2 cup sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Pour over nut mixture.
  6. Beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread evenly over nut mixture in dish.
  7. Place dessert under oven broiler until top is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

 

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Happy Halloween!

In this 1904 Halloween greeting card, divination is depicted: the young woman looking into a mirror in a darkened room hopes to catch a glimpse of her future husband.

In this 1904 Halloween greeting card, divination is depicted: the young woman looking into a mirror in a darkened room hopes to catch a glimpse of her future husband.

Halloween falls on a Monday this year, which means you can celebrate all weekend! We’re here to make sure your feasting and frivolity is not only fun and delicious, but also ties you back to your ancient past. Check out the links below to learn more about Halloween’s connections to antiquity and scroll down for some yummy ancient treats to make that will be sure to dazzle your trick or treaters! Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Roman Seafood Fricassee for National Seafood Month

fresh-seafood-on-iceIt’s that time of year again! Not Halloween, although we’re pretty excited about that too. It’s National Seafood Month!

Check out our post from last year with all of our ancient seafood recipes and information about how seafood has sustained humanity for thousands of years around the globe: Bon Appetit Wednesday! National Seafood MonthOnce you’ve satisfied your curiosity, click here for an all new ancient recipe for Roman Seafood Fricassee. Bon Appetit!