Category Archives: History

Tiger Nut Sweets

Finally back to some edumacatin’ this week! I actually feel better already and it’s only Tuesday. Just goes to show that we all need routine and structure.

We are staring down the end of our focus on ancient Egypt which means activity time! Today we made what might just be the human race’s first candy. The boys were both excited to do this project, but I had my doubts whether they would actually try the treats. EJ is extremely cautious of new foods, and although JD is more adventurous he sometimes takes his brother’s lead and will refuse (or try) something  just because big brother did.

The recipe for Tiger Nut Sweets also known as Tiger Balls, is believed to be the oldest Egyptian recipe ever found. In general ancient recipes were not written down, they would have been common knowledge and not important enough to write by the scribes of the day. For recipes that might have been written down, only those in the early Egyptian era, written on clay or pottery would have survived.

There seem to be variations on the recipe and I imagine even in ancient days these date treats could have been made more savory or sweet depending on what spices were used. We followed the recipe in Creative Fun Egyptian Activity Book.

Egyptians didn’t grow cane sugar but as early bee keepers they did have honey to use as sweetener. The recipe uses just a few ingredients and is easy enough for a child of any age to help, or for an older child to complete on their own.

  • Chopped Pitted dates, about 7 oz.
  • A bit of water
  • 4 oz. walnut pieces
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional alternatives: cumin, cardamom)
  • Ground almonds for coating.
If you happen to have a mortar and pestle in the house give it a try for this recipe; it’s certainly more traditional than the food processor we used. After-all, this is a learning project, not just a yummy treat.

Tiger Nut Sweets

Chop the walnuts in the processor, add the pitted and chopped dates and blend until they form a stiff paste. Add the honey and cinnamon and mix. At this point we found our food processor (it’s just a small one) to be unable to handle the stiff mixture. You could add a bit of water but it seemed to be the right texture so I had the boys finish mixing it in a bowl with the back of a spoon. Once you have a nice paste, form the mixture into small balls and roll in the ground almonds. Voila! Easy, natural, healthy, candy!

Tiger Nut Sweets

To up the learning with this project we decided to traipse through the neighborhood with our sweets and make a survey of opinions on the candy. The intention was to graph the results, but they were uniformly even. 10 people surveyed, 10 huge thumbs up. EJ asked each guinea pig (oops, I mean tester) to describe the sweet in one word. We got sweet, honey, nutty, tasty, crunchy, gooey, cinnamony, and scrumptious.

Candy makers

JD loved them and even I think they are very tasty although I’m not a big fan of honey. I was not surprised that EJ had no interest in tasting them himself. Eventually though after so many obviously positive reactions he ate one, and then another, and then another! Seriously, this result alone was worth the effort of traipsing up and down our street twice today knocking on doors. I’m so proud that he left his comfort zone to try something so foreign. I didn’t expect it, but I think this will be a recipe we actually repeat. Both boys are already clamoring to make it again!

Ancient Graffiti

Titas wuz here – The Boston Globe.

Cast your mind back to the history books you read in school, the ones that covered classical Greece and Rome, and you’ll probably find yourself thinking about people like Pliny and Plato, Seneca and Socrates, men who seemed to spend the bulk of their days orchestrating epic battles and formulating complicated theories about shadows in caves.

It seems less likely that you’ll recall the anonymous Athenian who, some 1,500 years ago, snuck out in the middle of the night to inform the world that a certain Sydromachos had a backside “as big as a cistern.” Likewise, the fact that someone named Titas was “a lewd fellow” will almost certainly have passed you by.

I read this article in the Globe this morning and thought it was very interesting.

Taylor and Baird don’t quite fit with what we know about classical scholars. They occupy the sharp end of a small but enthusiastic group of academics who argue that the “Great Men” approach to history has left a gaping hole in our understanding of the ancient world. The stuff that ordinary people scratched on their city walls, the argument goes, can be far more illuminating than yet another account of the Battle of Corbione.

While there is tremendous value in studying prominent citizens of the day, I can imagine that they hardly represent the culture that existed in any particular civilization. It certainly makes me wonder what future anthropologists would think of us today if they only had a few representatives of our culture to study. It’s something to keep in mind as we begin our study of ancient civilizations this week.