In studying and trying to parse food as it was made, stored, and eaten by a culture we cannot communicate with, we come up against assumptions, presumptions, and confusions all the time. Do we whisk a sauce? Do we coddle the eggs? There’s a lot of guesswork.
A few weeks ago, I was reminded of a modern illustration of the kinds of misapprehensions we can trip over so easily.
Living in the US, I grew up with pancakes. We knew them as pancakes, but also that they could be called flapjacks, johnnycakes, and myriad other names.
Visiting the UK, we needed snacks, and found granola bars, called “flapjacks.” I do not know how the good cooks of the UK began making granola bars and calling them flapjacks, but for some reason, they do.
Both items are “grains and liquid, placed in a pan, then cooked til done.” Very basic instructions might seem similar, but if you know you need a pancake you can make it happen, or if you don’t have a solid perception of the intended result, it might be all to easy to make a granola bar.
We are in the hobby of making good food to try to get to know our history better, but we must keep in mind that we have no corroboration on our best guesses.