Sunday, October 02, 2011

"What's for dinner, Hun?"

As I mentioned in the last post, the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus claimed that the Huns partially cooked their meat by warming it between their thighs and the backs of their horses:

[T]heir way of life is so rough that have no use for fire or seasoned food, but live on roots of wild plants and the half-raw flesh of any sort of animal, which they warm a little by placing it between their thighs and the backs of their horses.

To my surprise, in The End of Empire: Attila the Hun & the Fall of Rome, Christopher Kelly asserts that there may be a germ of truth to Ammianus's assertion:

Hans Schiltberger, a fourteenth-century mercenary and adventurer from Bavaria, claimed to have observed that among the Tatars, nomadic neighbors of the Mongols who captured Kiev in 1240, horsemen preparing to travel long distances placed raw meat under their saddles.  "I have also seen that when the Tatars are on a long journey they take a piece of raw meat, cut it into slices, place it under the saddle, ride on it, and eat it when they are hungry.  They salt it first and claim that it will not spoil because it is dried by the warmth of the horse and becomes tender under the saddle from riding, after the moisture has gone out of it."  Tenderized raw meat seems to have been something of a steppe signature dish.

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