The Oldest Recipe?

What’s the most ancient cuisine you can eat in Minnesota? It’s not something I think about too much, but I thought about it today because there was a fascinating little story in the New York Times this week about the domestication of farm animals.

It turns out that goats, sheep, cattle and pigs were all domesticated thousands of years earlier than previously thought; in fact, sheep and goats were domesticated a whopping 11,000 years ago in a fertile crescent roughly stretching from contemporary eastern Turkey through northern Syria and western Iran.

Now, this is just idle, wild, baseless speculation on my part, but as a blogger, I feel that idle, yet impassioned speculation is something I’m allowed to do, and so I’m doing it: I bet lamb and goat kabobs are thus the oldest recognizable dish that people were eating 11,000 years ago and are still eating today, and right here in Minnesota. I’m picturing ancient shepherds and goatherds on hills, roasting cubes of meat over open flames along with wild herbs and greens that grew nearby, like oregano, a wild-growing herb of such power and strength that every year I have to hack about a bushel of it out of my garden, lest it devour the parsley.

Uh-oh, now the journalist part of me is rising up in protest at the blogging part of me: What’s older, kabobs, or injera and biddeena? Injera and biddeena are those spongy, wild-fermented breads made from an ancient grain, Teff, which spring from the cradle of man, Africa, and are also found in many of our local African restaurants. Granted, the true oldest cuisine is: “Anything you could get your hands on that didn’t immediately kill you” which is to say, the McDonald’s of the time. Still it’s all interesting to think about, and also to note that many of these early cuisines thrive right here in the good old North Star state today.

I mean, don’t you feel just electrified with ancient history now, and also hungry? If so, I have a short list of some of my favorite local places to get some of the world’s most ancient foods, which I’m taking to be Turkish, Kurdish, and Middle Eastern. Also, African, in case I’m wrong about that. Finally, anyone who hasn’t been to the Blue Nile in a while, please note that the place has quietly become home to one of the biggest, most interesting craft beer lists in town, and tends to get whatever secret, ultra-limited edition beers Surly is making at the moment.

Black Sea Restaurant
737 Snelling Ave N
St Paul, MN 55104
(651) 917-8832

Babani’s Kurdish Restaurant
544 Saint Peter St
St Paul, MN 55102
(651) 602-9964

Beirut Restaurant
1385 Robert St S
West St Paul, MN 55118
(651) 457-4886

Blue Nile Restaurant
2027 E Franklin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55404
(612) 338-3000