. . . depends on where you would like to begin.
for written records (cookbooks), just look in
the oldest cookbook known. There are recipes for lamb
stews and fish stews in Apicius de re Coquinaria,
whose identity is uncertain, there having been three
Romans by that name in the period first century BC to
second century AD. What is known is that the book has
survived and there are recipes for stews of lamb and
fish in it. (An English translation is available Apicius:
Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, A Bibliography,
Critical Review and Translation of the Ancient Book
known as Apicius de re Coquinaria by Joseph Dommers
Vehling, which is available in reprint paperback from
(French chef: 1310 - 1395 whose real name was Guillaume
Tirel) wrote Le Viandier, one of the oldest
cookbooks in French, also has ragouts or stews of various
types in it.
go back even further, there is ample evidence from primitive
tribes who survived into the Nineteenth and Twentieth
centuries, that they could and did boil foods together
(which is what a stew essentially is). Amazonian tribes
used the shells of turtles, boiling the entrails of
the turtle and various other ingredients. Other cultures
used the shells of large mollusks (clams, etc) to boil
foods. There is archaeological evidence of these practices
going back seven or eight thousand years or more.
tells us of the Scythians (Eighth to Fourth centuries
BC) who "put the flesh into an animal's paunch, mix
water with it, and boil it like that over the bone fire.
The bones burn very well, and the paunch easily contains
all the meat once it has been stripped off. In this
way an ox, or any other sacrificial beast, is ingeniously
made to boil itself." (Some sources feel this was
how some of the first 'boiling' was done by primitive
man, perhaps as long ago as a half to one million years
development of pottery, perhaps ten thousand years ago,
made cooking and stews in particular, even easier.
any combination of two or more foods simmered in a liquid
is a 'stew'. Hungarian Goulash, Coq au Vin, Carbonnades
a la Flamande, Beef Stroganoff, Boeuf Bourguignonne,
these are all stews.
Goulash dates back to the Ninth century Magyar shepherds
of the area, before the existence of Hungary. Paprika
was added in the Eighteenth century.
first written reference to refer to 'Irish stew' is
in Byron's Devil's Drive (1814): "The Devil
. . . dined on . . . a rebel or so in an Irish stew.”
hope these facts and examples give you an idea of how
old and varied 'stews' are to the cuisine of all cultures.
article is from Chef James Ehler of Key West, Florida.
is a webmaster, cook, chef, writer and (like me) a self-confessed
computer nerd. He is the former executive chef of Martha's
Steak & Seafood Restaurant and the former Reach Hotel
(both in Key West), the Hilton Hotel in Fayetteville,
Arkansas, and the New Bern Golf and Country Club, North
is now webmaster and cook at the Blue Heaven Restaurant
in Key West while he works on his Food Encyclopedia
(five years so far). It is well worth paying a visit
to James' food reference website which is a useful resource
well worth Bookmarking - to visit either website just
click on their title:
Food Reference Website
Blue Heaven Restaurant, Key West, Florida.
James T. Ehler, 2001
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