Cuisines and identities
Meals and the actions related to food preparation and consumption are an essential part of human life. They are crucial in a biological sense, because eating is a necessity that has to be satisfied every day, and in a social sense, because it is through the daily actions of cooking and eating that we weave our fabric of affection and emotions, our relations of cooperation and solidarity and of inequality and distinctiveness. Through them, we also create and express feelings of belonging related to gender, age, our domestic or family group, our social class or community, and even our religious or ethnic group. That is why those who prepare and cook our daily food play an essential role, not only in the wellbeing and biological continuity of domestic groups and communities, but also in their social and political life.
We have much textual and iconographic information on the Phoenician and Carthaginian communities in which the importance of women in those daily tasks is extolled. It was largely the women of the household who were in charge of preparing the daily sustenance, which was based mainly on cereals accompanied by small portions of fat, protein, fruit and vegetables. The cereals were prepared in the form of gruels or stews that constituted the basic diet of ordinary people or they were baked in ovens similar to those still used in parts of the Near East and North Africa to bake the traditional unleavened bread.
The task of handing down food preparation methods and culinary knowledge and techniques was mainly the responsibility of women and was undertaken in everyday domestic contexts. Kitchen facilities and equipment from highly diverse origins have been documented in the majority of the houses in Phoenician settlements. This diversity suggests that these communities were multicultural environments in which women from diverse areas passed on their methods of preparing and cooking food.
Picture: Preparation of unleavened bread in a Tannur oven. Illustrated by ªRU-MOR