Ancient Sumer – Food Habits

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The Sumerians were the first culture to abandon hunting and gathering for food and begin farming. Like many other inventions that the Sumerian culture brought to the world, they also contributed to agriculture and food. The Sumerian diet consisted mainly of barley.

The raw material of most Sumerian dishes was barley, barley cake and barley paste were accompaniments to all main meals. Wheat and millet were other raw materials used in Sumerian cuisine. The cultivation of vegetables and fruits, chickpeas, lentils, beans, onions, garlic, leeks, cucumbers, watercress, mustard and fresh green lettuce was part of the early Sumerian diet. The Sumerians were the first culture to become sedentary, leaving behind the earlier nomadic lifestyle. With settlement, they began domesticating animals for food and work. goat milk and meat, eggs, pigs; Game fowl, deer, and venison were also an essential part of the Sumerian diet.

Everyday Sumerian food probably consisted of barley pies with onions and beans washed down with barley ale. Fish, which swarmed the rivers of Mesopotamia, were also an important food source. In the early texts from before 2300 B.C. Over fifty different species of fish are mentioned in BC, and fried fish sellers flourished in the city of Ur. Food stalls also sold onions, pickles, freshly grilled goat, mutton and pork. Meat was more popular and common in big cities than in sparsely populated towns as it would spoil in the heat. Cattle were only slaughtered for consumption at the end of their working lives.

Information about Sumerian food can be gleaned from archeology and written records on cuneiform tablets. These sources also point to the importance of barley and wheat cakes as staple foods along with grain and legume soups, onions, leeks, garlic and melons. In addition to agricultural vegetables, Sumerian foods also included fruits. These were apples, figs and grapes. Later Sumerian food records also mentioned several culinary herbs, as well as honey and cheese, butter, and vegetable oil. The Sumerians often drank beer and sometimes wine. Food preservation was also developed, salting meat and preserving fruits in honey. Various other fruits including apples were dried to preserve them and a fermented cause is also mentioned in the Akkadian texts.

Rice and corn were unknown in ancient Mesopotamia, so barley and its flour was the staple of the Sumerians. Their bread was coarse, flat, and unleavened, although an expensive version was made with finer flour. Pieces of this bread were found in the tomb of Queen Puabi of Ur and left there for sustenance in the afterlife. Breads were refined with butter, milk and cheese, sesame seeds and even fruits and their juices. Later records show that truffles were also made. With the advent of irrigation canals, lush fruit and vegetable farms were found with fruits such as mulberries, pears, plums, cherries and pomegranates in abundance. The most important food crop in southern Mesopotamia was the date palm. Goats, cows, and ewes were domesticated for milk; Geese and ducks for eggs and about 50 species of fish were a Sumerian staple. Meat was cooked by roasting, boiling, grilling, or grilling, and preserved by drying, smoking, or salting.

Thanks to Christopher Schwebius

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