I have always been intrigued and amazed by our ancestors. The emergence of the human race as the dominant species of our planet astounds me. Our ability to learn, adapt and bend nature to our will is a testament to how fortunate and resilient we are.
I often think about the struggles and challenges of our ancestors and how they ate. What was their diet? How long or often did they go without food? How did they learn what could be safely consumed and what was poisonous?
All this leads me to an article that I came across on a fantastic site. Atlasobscura.com covers a variety of interesting topics including the discovery of an ancient energy bar recipe that is no less than 5000 years old. As I read this, I was taken by the fact that it is high in fat, protein, and dried fruit while being diabetic friendly, . Would you eat an energy bar based on a 5000 year old recipe?
This recipe or energy bar is thought to be the culinary ancestor of modern Pemmican, a native American food that is a calorie dense version of a meat and fruit mixture. It is highly portable, and has a long shelf life without refrigeration.
Cool so far, right?
I was very curious about one thing: How did it taste?
Given that the recipe is diabetic friendly, I decided to try it out for those of us with an adventurous spirit.
In the video below, I recreated this ancient energy bar recipe with the closest ingredients I could source. The shredded beef proved the most difficult to find. Most dried beef today is actually jerky. Modern jerky is a bit different from simple dried beef as it contains additional spices and some additives that affect the final taste and preservation.
I found a product called Machaca, a slightly seasoned dried and shredded beef that has many uses beyond just this experiment. In case you have trouble finding it, we have Machaca listed on our shop page as well.
One key point. DO NOT use butter or shortening! Use lard as stated in the recipe for a few reasons:
- Butter can turn rancid, which limits shelf life. The stability properties are very different and butter will not hold the mixture together like lard.
- Shortening, while typically interchangeable with lard, the neutral flavor will dilute the final flavor profile.
I encourage you to take a look at the video. Challenge your taste buds.
And what did I think after trying it?
A few things? The bar was not bad. I could taste the meat and the blueberries while the lard was not overwhelming. I could certainly see eating this in the dead of winter when options are sparse.
This little project left me with a deep respect for the ingenuity and survival instinct of our species. I still cannot imagine how we “discovered” the ideal food combinations of meat, fruit and fat over 5000 years ago. In many dishes, we still use this core combination today across a variety of culinary cultures.
I am reminded that simpler is better in many cases when it comes to food. I love dishes with ingredients than I can count on one hand. When I can taste each one, it makes me appreciate the dish more.
Below you’ll find the adapted recipe inspired by atlasobscura.com.
Enjoy and let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
5000 Year Old Energy Bar
- Mixing bowl
- Wooden spoon
- Ice cream Scoop or measuring cup
- 1 cup Powdered or finely shredded dried beef machaca is preferred
- 1/3 cup Dried Blueberries
- 2 Tablespoons Lard
- NOTE: Do not use butter or shortening. It will not work as expected.
- Using a food processor, add ½ cup of the beef together with the dried blueberries. Pulse to roughly chop the blueberries.
- Once chopped, remove to a bowl and combine with the remaining beef.
- Melt the lard in the microwave for 25 – 30 seconds. Blend into the beef and berry mixture.
- Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, press and form the mixture into desired size portions.
- Chill in the refrigerator until firm (2 hours). Enjoy!