Leonardo da Vinci was one of the greatest inventors in history, but not many know his bright mind eventually helped us in the kitchen. He designed a convection roasting spit now enjoyed as the rotisserie. He also designed a cooling distiller for making liquors which led to the modern-day refrigerator. What foods would Leonardi da Vinci and his peers have eaten? We still eat the same basic foods and herbs today. Choose from the following foods to create your own modern-day da Vinci supper.
Honey is as old as written history, dating back to 2100 B.C. where it was mentioned in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings, the Hittite code, and the sacred writings of India and Egypt; and it is presumably even older than that. Its name comes from the English hunig, and it was the first and most widespread sweetener used by man. Best of all, honey has no expiration date.
Cheese was a staple in earlier Roman times. It was a good way to preserve and use the excess milk from animals. Cheese was made from any milk-bearing animal, especially goats. Today we are blessed with thousands of cheeses from which to choose, from soft to hard, mild to extremely sharp. Some are downright stinky, but still delicious.
Many people instantly disdain any recipe made with anchovies, immediately thinking of pizza or perhaps antipasto salad. Those same people probably vastly enjoy Worcestershire sauce, remoulade sauce, and green goddess dressing, all of which classic recipes contain anchovies. Anchovies were used both fresh and salted in ancient Roman times.
The fruit of the vine has been not only consumed as a beverage since ancient times, it has also been a prime ingredient in many recipes. Wine was used to preserve and marinate meat as well as to add flavor to sauces.
In the Mediterranean region, fish was naturally a staple food. It was used in soups and stews as a protein stretcher. Today, we have many different fishes from which to choose, from mild-flavored to strong. Some whitefish varieties are dried to preserve and then reconstituted.
Dill dates back to 3000 BC, and is native to the Mediterranean region. Dill has been mentioned in da Vinci's writings. It's a natural with seafood, so it makes sense. Dill is good not only with fish, but all seafood.
The olive dates back to 17th century B.C where it first appeared in print in Egyptian records and was mentioned numerous times in the Bible. Olives were used primarily for oil in ancient times. We still enjoy olive oil today, but also appreciate the olive as a condiment.
Garlic is also native to the Mediterranean. It was considered so valuable that it was used as currency. One reason for its popularity was its ability to mask the smell of old meat while adding flavor. Today we know that garlic also has many health benefits.
Capers are almost as misunderstood as anchovies today, but they have been prized as a flavoring agent in Italy and the Mediterranean area for centuries. Capers are a small pickled bud that tastes almost like an olive. You really must try these in your recipes.
Oregano is another herb that was widely used in ancient Roman times. Storage of meat was an obvious problem without refrigeration, so herbs and strong-flavored vegetables helped mask the musky odor and flavor of aged meat. Today we enjoy oregano on its own merits