The earliest known recipes date from approximately 1600 BC and come from an Akkadian tablet from southern Babylonia. There are ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting the preparation of food.
Many ancient Greek recipes are known. Mithaecus’s cookbook was an early one, but most of it has been lost; Athenaeus quotes one short recipe in his Deipnosophistae. Athenaeus mentions many other cookbooks, all of them lost.
Roman recipes are known starting in the 2nd century BCE with Cato the Elder’s De Agri Cultura. Many other authors of this period described eastern Mediterranean cooking in Greek and in Latin.
Some Punic recipes are known in Greek and Latin translation.
Much later, in the 4th or 5th century, appears the large collection of recipes conventionally entitled ‘Apicius’, the only more or less complete surviving cookbook from the classical world. It chronicles the courses served which are usually referred to as Gustatio (appetizer), Primae Mensae (main course) and Secundae Mensae (dessert). The Romans introduced many herbs and spices into western cuisine, Renfrew states that basil, bay, dill, fennel, mint, parsley, rue and thyme were all common in Roman cooking.
Arabic recipes are documented starting in the 10th century; see al-Warraq and al-Baghdadi.
King Richard II of England commissioned a recipe book called Forme of Cury in 1390, around the same time another book was published entitled Curye on Inglish. Both books give an impression of how food was prepared and served in the noble classes of England at that time. The revival of the European class system at this time brought entertainment back to the palaces and homes of the nobility and along with it the start of what can be called the modern recipe book. By the 15th century, numerous manuscripts were appearing, detailing the recipes of the day. Many of these, such as the Harleian MS[clarification needed] 279, Harleian MS 4016, Ashmole MS 1429, Laud MS 553 and Dure MS 55, give very good information and record the re-discovery of many herbs and spices including coriander, parsley, basil and rosemary, many of which had been brought back from the Crusades.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, competition between the large houses became commonplace and numerous books were written on how to manage households and prepare food. In Holland and Englandcompetition grew between the noble families as to who could prepare the most lavish banquet. By the 1660s, cookery had progressed to an art form and good cooks were in demand. Many of them published their own books detailing their recipes in competition with their rivals. Many of these books have now been translated and are available online.
By the 19th century, cooking had become a passion throughout the world. Using the latest technology and a new concept in publishing, Mrs Beeton (1836-1865) published her famous Book of Household Management in 24 monthly parts between 1857 and 1861. Around the same time the American cook Fannie Farmer (1857-1915) was born and, having devoted herself to cooking, published in 1896 her famous work The Boston Cooking School Cookbook which contained some 1,849 recipes.
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