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The Premodern Cook-off

The Premodern Cook-off

October 26, 2017

Originally published in Professor of History Sandy Bardsley’s blog, Experimental Archaelology

Curious to explore and share the culinary offerings of our ancestors, the Moravian College History Department hosted a Premodern Cook-off on September 26th. The event was organized by four 100-level history classes:

  • Colonial Latin America, taught by Assistant Professor Sandra Aquilar
  • Native North America, taught by Associate Professor Jamie Paxton
  • Two sections of England to 1603, taught by Professor Sandy Bardsley

The cook-off was a great success, and all credit is due to the students in each of the classes who found appropriate recipes, adapted them for cooking over gas burners and charcoal barbecues, prepared posters in which they explained the recipes' context and noted anachronisms, and cooked them for the benefit of Moravian's campus and 7th- and 8th-graders from the Swain School. Here was the menu:



Paleolithic Ragout of Mushrooms with Leek and Bacon

Paleolithic Sweet Hazelnut Bread

Roman-era Burgers

Iron Age Lentil and Mushroom Soup

Medieval Pumpes (meatballs)

Medieval Sweet Cottage Cheese Fritters

Early Modern Spiced Roast Chicken

Early Modern Pazzelles and Snowe



Hull Corn Soup

Oneida Corn Bread


Wojapi (fruit dish)

Corn and Pumpkin Pudding




Pico de gallo


Rice and beans


The Swain School students helped not only with sampling but also voting on the best dish. The eventual winners were the creators of the sweet cottage cheese fritters ("smartards"), made from the recipe on this page; although, at the risk of sounding sappy, the real winners were those of us who got to sample the many dishes offered. In terms of experimental archaeology, students had to think through things like the provenance of ingredients and equipment (leading to conversations about matters like, "how did they get salt?" "what would this have been cooked in back then?"), identify anachronisms, and present their materials to an appreciative public. Many thanks to Moravian College’s facilities services for setting up tables and chairs, letting us use the tent, and kindly ignoring the scorch mark on the grass where we placed a too-hot pazzelle maker.

(More pics from the event can be found here.)