Go on a mouth watering journey through the ancient world with this family-friendly cookbook. Each of the more than 100 recipes is inspired by delicious historical dishes and adapted for ease of preparation in the modern kitchen. Taste your way through 18 cultures as you feed your mind with mythical origins and the historical significance of food around the world and across tens of thousands of years. Make tamales like the Olmecs in Mesoamerica and curry like the people of the Indus Valley Civilization of India. Enjoy feasts, drinks, desserts, and simple snacks as you read about their ancient origins.
Our recipes are designed with families in mind, so many offer gluten-free, dairy free, and vegetarian options. Each recipe has a recommended skill level for younger chefs. More than 100 photos will tempt your appetite and keep you flipping through this book of food history.
I sat down with the author of Ancient Eats, Stephanie Hanson, to learn more about her journey writing Ancient Eats. Stephanie has been interested in history and cooking since childhood, combining both interests after her experiences working in living history farms, educating visitors about farm life in the eighteenth century. She also participates in living history as a hobby and dabbles in spinning, weaving, and homesteading. She’s now a home educating mom of four kids who love hands-on activities as much as she does. Read on to learn more about Stephanie and Ancient Eats!
What inspired you to write Ancient Eats: An Edible Exploration of the World?
I’ve always loved cooking. Some of my earliest memories were helping my dad in the kitchen. Later on, as a living history interpreter, I learned about historic recipes and cooking on an open fire. I’ve enjoyed including the occasional recipe in our boxes but wanted to go further.
I read a lot of scholarly articles but I also looked at a lot of cookbooks from around the world. Culinary traditions are a living art and I wanted to trace those threads back in time.
Honoring Australian Aboriginal culture through food was the most challenging. Very few ingredients from Australia are available in the States. Australian Aborigines also lost a lot of their culture to government forced assimilation. Food traditions have survived but there isn’t much in the way of pre-colonial recipes.
Ancient Eats is definitely a family-friendly cookbook. Who else would enjoy learning about the food & culture of the Ancient World?
When I conceptualized this cookbook I truly had all ages in mind. While the cookbook is designed for families to cook together, I would say anyone who enjoys cooking would enjoy Ancient Eats. I especially hope that this cookbook will engage teens who are looking for a way to connect to history.
It’s really hard for me to choose, but I really love Chicken Yassa as it appears in the cookbook.
Chicken Yassa comes from the Wagadou (the Ghana Empire) located partially in modern day Senegal. p. 139
It was a challenge to balance historical accuracy, availability of ingredients, and ease of preparation. It’s one reason I decided to focus on history as inspiration rather than a step by step recreation process.
I lucked out in my choice of spouse. My husband was a photography major and applied for the job. My 9 year old also did some minor artistic direction for the desserts.
They were major taste testers. They watch a lot of cooking shows and were able to make great suggestions about improving the recipes. My oldest is a great sous chef. My biggest tip about cooking with kids is to allow extra time and not try to rush. And know that the more time they spend in the kitchen, the more confident they get.
Desserts are always a big hit! They loved the Phoenician Cookies. The Rice Pulao also went over well.
Phoenician Cookies p. 177
What was the hardest ingredient to find and how did you source it?
Licorice root was the hardest to find! I ordered it online and then put an easy-to-find substitute in the recipe. I also spent a lot of time at a local international market. But I wanted to limit the number of hard-to-source ingredients, so I did most of my grocery shopping at our chain grocery store.
It’s almost a tie between the research and the eating, but I think I’m going to have to go with eating. It was really satisfying to get to the final product after puzzling together all the pieces.
How many times did you make each recipe?
I cooked every recipe 2 to 3 times and sometimes it came out delicious right away. Sometimes it took a lot more tweaking. I must’ve made millet flatbread a dozen times or more. Some recipes went through a second round of testing after feedback from our recipe testers. Some of the recipes failed the testing and I would go back to the source material to see if I could find more clues.
We picked our cultures based on the ones we covered in our Ancient History book last year. I wanted foodie families to be able to put together a complete feast from each culture. I also wanted to have a number of easily accessible recipes for kids to prepare independently or for adult cooks with less kitchen experience. I also picked many recipes that could be adapted for food allergies and with easily found ingredients. I did put in some more challenging recipes that I thought were a great experience to prepare. There were so many recipes I had to leave out because of space! My daughter’s favorite recipe, Oaxacan Nicuatole, didn’t make the final cut. She still begs me to make it again
Is your mouth watering? Ancient Eats: An Edible Exploration of the World is available NOW for pre-order from the History Unboxed Website, Bookshop, & Amazon. Psssst…. you could also preorder from your favorite local bookstore! Order your copy today for delivery mid-September and start exploring the ancient world… from the comfort of your own kitchen!