Fwd: Ancient cooking (Reuters)
- The following was forwarded to me by a friend of mine. More information on
that feast of Midas!
<<Sunday September 24 1:53 PM ET
Scientists Eat Midas Feast of Grog, Lamb Stew
By David Morgan
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - For only the second time in nearly three
millennia, the legendary King Midas of Phrygia was honored this weekend by
admirers who gulped a special golden elixir and devoured an authentic spicy
This time, the entourage was led not by purple-robed Phrygian noblemen, but
by U.S. archaeologists in dinner jackets and cocktail dresses who recreated
Saturday parts of the 2,700-year-old funeral feast of the king known for
his golden touch.
In a first for science, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of
Archaeology and Anthropology reconstructed the recipes for the drink and
main course of the original dinner from leftovers unearthed in Midas' Iron
Age tomb 43 years ago in central Turkey.
``Pan scrapings,'' joked archaeologist G. Kenneth Sams of the University of
Pennsylvania. ``When you come right down to it, that's what's brought us
here tonight, pan scrapings.''
Universities have been hosting recreated Greek and Roman banquets for some
``But what you usually get from those is a composite of foods eaten over
hundreds or even thousands of years,'' said Patrick McGovern, a University
of Pennsylvania archaeological chemist who identified the world's oldest
wine, from about 5,400 B.C., and the oldest known beer, from about 3,400
B.C. ''I don't think anybody's ever tried to produce a feast like this,
recreating a specific historical event by using the actual remains as a
guide,'' said McGovern, who led the team which did the chemical analyses on
the ``pan scrapings'' recovered from Midas' tomb in the ancient city of
Gordion, about 60 miles southwest of Ankara.
The 150 dinner guests, who paid up to $150 to attend, sat at tables covered
with royal purple and decorated with golden apples.
For an aperitif, diners got ``King Midas's Golden Elixir,'' an odd mixture
of beer, wine and honey mead that was the grog of choice not only for Midas
but for other monarchs of the ancient Mediterranean world including the
mythical King Agamemnon of Mycenae, who led the Greeks against Troy.
``The stew is way too spicy,'' University of Pennsylvania archaeologist
Keith DeVries said of the piece de resistance -- lamb stewed in lentils,
olive oil, honey, wine and anise.
The museum's guests also munched on olives, figs, goat cheese, a garlic and
olive spread and rustic breads. Diners were also served a watercress and
goat cheese salad with cherry vinaigrette. Dessert was a fennel tart.
The meal included a decidedly unauthentic chocolate truffle and coffee.
Cocoa is native to what is now Latin America while coffee is thought to
originate in Ethiopia.
According to myth, Midas was a Macedonian king with a rose-garden palace
when the god Dionysus granted his wish that everything he touched would
turn to gold. The wish became a curse when even food turned to gold. Midas
won reprieve by journeying to Asia Minor and washing in the river Pactolus.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have shown some of the myth
to be true.
The Midas of history was a warrior king of an Indo-European people who
migrated to Asia Minor from the Balkans around 1,000 B.C. Known as King
``Mita'' to the neighboring Assyrians, he had a large palace on a semi-arid
prairie that came to life with wild flowers each spring.
But scholars suspect that Midas' legendary gold was actually polished
bronze vessels that Greek storytellers either mistook for gold or
embellished for the purposes of entertainment.
``The real gold was what we found in those vessels,'' said McGovern,
referring to a handful of copper-colored dust that had been the grog and a
clump of material resembling dried tree-bark shavings that had been the
spicy lamb stew.
The museum, which has research projects under way in 18 countries from
Mongolia to Bolivia, is hoping to turn the menu of the Midas feast to gold
by offering it as authentic royal banquet fare to banks, law firms and
other possible donors.
The days of adventurous archaeologists like the fictional Indiana Jones,
who pilfered ancient relics from exotic sites and brought them home, are
The contents of the Midas tomb, for instance, remains in Turkish museums,
leaving this weekend's diners to sit in an Egyptian gallery beneath the
3,800-year-old stone visage of the Pharaoh Ramses II.
``Today, we need to find creative ways to connect our research to the
public,'' said museum director Jeremy Sabloff. ''This is one of them.''>>
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