Research Ramblings: Horse Treats and Avoiding Culinary Anachronisms, Part 1

My current work in progress involves chariot racing, and given its substantial equine components, I’ve recruited the aid of horse owners Julie and The Boyz’ Mom to keep it real. (For more about them, read this post.) They love sharing about their horses, and I love learning from them, and hopefully you’ll get some entertainment out of our exchanges.

When Julie’s horses do well or if she just wants to spoil them, she gives them peppermints. I thought sugar cubes were the equestrian treat of choice, but in her barn, it’s peppermints. And it is an acquired taste. When she first got Elle and gave her a mint, Elle was very ho-hum about it. But after a few weeks, she’d start raising a fuss if she heard a whisper of cellophane. If Julie’s not quick enough unwrapping the mint, Elle will just eat the whole thing, wrapper and all.

Using special foods to show love is something I believe Julie’s ancient Greek counterparts would’ve done, but that raises the question of what they would’ve used. Many foods that are regional mainstays might not have existed in the area thousands of years ago. For example, potatoes became an Irish staple, but that was only after Columbus got to the New World.

Fortunately, I had A. Dalby’s Siren Feasts for help. In this book, he describes the food culture of the ancient Greeks. He even includes a simple fish recipe from an ancient cookbook. While diet did vary from Greek city-state to city-state, the text was handy in determining what basic ingredients would have been available in that part of the world.

One thing I quickly determined with that sugar lumps were out. Ubiquitous as it is in our culture, refined sugar is a relatively recent development. The sweeteners available to the ancient Greeks were honey and date syrup, and those were luxuries. Not to mention, they’re not exactly amenable to feeding to a horse.

However, something our ancient horse folk did have access to was fruit, something I’ll delve into next time.

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2 responses to “Research Ramblings: Horse Treats and Avoiding Culinary Anachronisms, Part 1

  1. Honey in a nice warm bran mash would make a horse so happy! or, yes, fruit would have been a treat, too.

    • would be dangerous to offer the honey without a bucket or something though. I remember that story that the Boyz’ Mom told about feeding a horse oatmeal by hand…

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