African Mud Fish: An Ancient Delicacy

Summer Banquet Blog HopToday I’m taking part in the Summer Banquet Blog Hop in which readers will discover wonderful new historical fiction…and more than a little bit about new foods and culinary trivia. I’m not giving away a prize because I apparently forgot to sign up properly, but please do visit the other stops!

The heroine of my novels, Cleopatra Selene, was the Queen of Mauretania–a large kingdom that embraces modern-day Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

This region is best known today for couscous and mint tea, but in the days of Cleopatra Selene, couscous would likely have been far too time-intensive a dish even if it is true that the Carthaginians imported semolina in ancient times. And, of course, black tea leaves seem not to have made their way from the East yet, so the ancient mint “tea” was likely an herbal tisane.

But one dish that is likely to have been served in Cleopatra Selene’s court is the lungfish, which can swim, crawl, and live out of water for months. In fact, they burrow into mud nests at the beginning of the rainy season and can be caught by simply cutting their homes from the earth and transporting them. This would have made them a very convenient snack for the ancients, who didn’t have refrigeration to keep their seafood fresh.Yummy Lung Fish!

While the lungfish looks like an eel, its taste is apparently much stronger. So much stronger, in fact, that is is considered an acquired taste. I had fun playing with this idea in my forthcoming novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE NILE, when my heroine tries to taunt the emperor’s daughter into eating one.

 

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