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Drop a tiger into a court-bouillon

Bee Wilson: Mesopotamian cookery, 6 October 2005

The Oldest Cuisine in the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia 
by Jean Bottéro, translated by Teresa LavenderFagan.
Chicago, 134 pp., £16, May 2004, 0 226 06735 1
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... Who was it who invented the first black cakes Or the uncounted poppy-seed? Who mix’d The yellow compounds of delicious sweetmeats? This was one of many questions asked by the poet Athenaeus in the Deipnosophists, a long series of dialogues on food and dining. If Athenaeus, who lived 1800 years ago, couldn’t, how much less equipped are we to answer questions about the way the first cooks cooked? How can we know what people ate in the past? It is hard enough to re-create a meal we had last Tuesday: ingredients are never the same, and we forget how much pepper we added; we can go back to the recipe book, if we used one, but it won’t tell us that we substituted garlic for onions, or that our children picked out all the courgettes before they ate it ...

Nothing beside remains

Josephine Quinn: The Razing of Palmyra, 25 January 2018

Palmyra: An Irreplaceable Treasure 
by Paul Veyne, translated by Teresa LavenderFagan.
Chicago, 88 pp., £17, April 2017, 978 0 226 42782 9
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... The​ Syrian oasis town of Tadmur is close to the middle of nowhere, 140 miles east of Damascus, 125 miles west of the Euphrates, and 20 miles from the nearest village. It’s famous for two institutions established under the French Mandate at the turn of the 1930s. One is the archaeological site now known by the Greek name of Palmyra, until recently one of the most extraordinary survivals from the ancient world ...

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