Somewhere between 1,600 and 1,900 years ago a cook book was written titled, “De re Coquinara” (Concerning Cookery) and attributed to a Roman gourmet named Apicius. Although there are records in China dating thousands of years earlier, including a 9,000 year old recipe for beer, this may be the first cookbook in Western culture.
It contains some very strange entries, from the article Pluck a Flamingo (The Economist):
"There are recipes for ostrich and flamingo, befitting the sweep of the Roman Empire. Apicius instructs cooks to add honey to almost everything, including lobster. He teaches them how to cook one dish so that it resembles another and how to disguise bad food.
One recipe explains that stale birds should be cooked in a sauce of pepper, lovage, thyme, mint, hazelnuts, dates, honey, vinegar, liquamen (fish sauce), wine and mustard. Through that concoction it would be impossible to detect a stale smell, or indeed any smell at all."
Some of the dishes in the text include:
Treatment of Strong Smelling Birds of every Description
Another Treatment of Odor
Sauce for Partridge, Heath-cock and Turtle-dove
- Julian Meal Mush
Lentils and Cow-parsnips
Peas Supreme Style
Spayed Sow's Womb
Stuffed Sow's Belly
Another Way to Cook Lung
"An Every-day Dish" (Patina quotidiana #142)
"Pieces of cooked sow's udder, pieces of cooked fish, chicken meat and similar bits, mince uniformly, season well and carefully. Take a metal dish for a mould. Break eggs in another bowl and beat them. in a mortar put pepper, lovage and origany, which crush; moisten this with broth, wine, raisin wine and a little oil; empty it into the bowl with the beaten eggs, mix and heat it in the hot water bath.
Thereupon when this is thickened mix it with the pieces of meat. now prepare alternately layers of stew and pancakes, interspersed with oil in the metal mould reserved for this purpose until full, cover with one real good pancake cut into it a vent hole for chimney on the surface bake in hot water bath and when done turn out upside down into another dish. Sprinkle with pepper and serve."
A translation of the entire “De re Coquinara” can be found here.