Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Phoenicians and their foods

Phoenicia. Kordas, based on Alvaro's work
Maybe we became a little sophisticated in our cooking lately but, to be honest, we still eat the same food as millenniums ago.

Take for example Phoenicians. They ate cereals, specially wheat and barley often imported from Egypt. They made porridges, breads and flatcakes that grew in popularity and crossed the borders  and survived for centuries. They also had vegetable gardens where they would grow peas, lentils, chickpeas, and beans, plus a bunch of fruits.

Most popular fruits were pomegranates and figs.  The pomegranate fruit was regarded as the fruit of fertility, due to it’s seeds abundance. Figs were considered a delicacy and were exported to other neighbours (egyptians). Other fruits they cultivated were dates, apples, quinces, almonds, limes and grapes.

Grapes were also used to make wine, just as today. The wine-making process was well developed and there are evidences that wine was “running like water” in a city called Ullaza, meaning that they had a great production of wine. (1) Wine was wildly used in religious rituals.

Oils were used in cooking and it is said that its extraction begun in the third millennium B.C.E.
Phoenicians also ate meats (sheep, cattle, rabbits, chicken, doves, and game), milk (a highly appreciated product) and honey (used in cakes and imported from Judah and Israel), fish, salt.

The essential diet in Carthage and Punic Empire especially its western territories (Sardinia, Sicily and Spain) was a dish named puls - a porridge made from mixed cereals. It was embellished with cheese, honey and eggs.

Here is a simple recipe from Cato, a roman  who fought in the punic war and wrote a book called De Agri Cultura:
“Add  a pound of flour to water and boil it well. Pour it into a clean tab, adding three pounds of fresh cheese, half a pound of honey, and an egg. Stir well and cook in a new pot”.

1. Food, a culinary history Ed. by Jean-Louis Flandrin and Massimo Montari, 1999, p.57