That takes me back a bit. It’s also a great idea. The Epic of Gilgamesh tablet 5 rolling pin, that is. A friend shared Farrell Monaco’s blog with me and the Gilgamesh cuneiform rolling pin took me back to a seasonal event in Edinburgh. The Scots love to socialize. My doctoral training involved lots of seasonal gatherings—something that we’ve missed since returning to the United States. On one such occasion with my fellow Ugaritic students, we said we’d bring cookies. Now the correct term for such things is “biscuits,” I know, but we had a recipe that really didn’t fit the biscuit description. It was for chocolate cookies. The dough was the consistency of a clay tablet. I taught my wife enough Ugaritic so that, using toothpicks, we inscribed a good part of the Baal Cycle on the desert. Alas, the tablets are no long extant.
Of all writing materials, clay and stone are the most durable. Our cuneiform cookies were in the days before cell phones, however, and film wasn’t cheap. We didn’t bother to make a photographic record, and, alas, such tablets are edible. They were a little difficult to read when baked and even more so when eaten. The use of culinary cuneiform makes me think that its design potential has gone under-utilized. Also back in Scotland for a while Coke was running a promotion with cuneiform on its labels. The problem with cuneiform is that even for someone who reads it an isolated character or two, without context, is difficult to decipher. I never did figure out what Coke was trying to say.
The Gilgamesh rolling pin apparently exists in the real world and can be purchased by antiquarians with university-salary-level jobs (somewhat over the pay scale of the mere editor). Tavola Mediterranea is listed as “The Home of Culinary Archaeology on the Web.” Although publishers and others doubt there is any interest in my erstwhile area of expertise, I feel vindicated by Monaco’s website. There is a real hunger for things ancient, but universities tend not to support that interest. I often wonder at how great centers of learning have evolved into upscale job training centers. Then again, I’m the kind of person who reads the Epic of Gilgamesh for fun. I even have an illustrated children’s edition of the story. Now I’m waiting for Ugaritic tablets to show up on cookware. Given the slow death of the field of Ugaritology, I suspect the day of making Baal Cycle cookies is long gone, and unless a new recipe for encouraging public interest can be found, we’ll all starve for knowledge of it.