Sparta, Ancient Greece, circa 650s BCE
- 1 piglet, cut into parts
- 4 cups pig's blood
- 6 cups water
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- Salt, to taste
Add water and vinegar to a large stock pot. Bring to a simmer.
Clean and flay piglet. Chop into parts and add to stock pot.
Bring stock pot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, until pork is fully cooked.
When pork is thoroughly cooked, remove cover and reduce heat.
Add pig's blood to the stock pot and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Optional: Strain meat from pot and serve to children. Plate and serve remaining blood broth to adults.
Black soup is the modern translation of Mélas Zōmós, a regional dish slurped down by the Spartans.
You know the Spartans; the warlike, throw-spears-first-ask-questions-later, loose cannons of ancient Greece. Sure, their actual badassery is a bit more debatable than the movie 300 would have you believe; but everyone agrees they were a just a teeny tiny bit aggressive.
Enter Black soup, the exact type of meal they'd love. Everyone else in the ancient world? Not so much.
Foreigners would immediately spit it out. It was said that in order to fully appreciate the flavor you needed to have swum in the Eurotas, a famous Spartan river. In other words, it was a "Spartan cool kid" thing.
Black soup was first mentioned in a comedy by Pherecrates named "The Miners." In the story, a woman visits the underworld and returns to report that the soup flows through the streets of hell. Not going to find a ringing endorsement like that on a can of Campbell's.
For a meal so well known to history, no true recipe survives. We're left with just a list of ingredients and a handful of variations on methods.
It's thought that vinegar was used to stop the blood from coagulating while cooking. Or maybe it was used as a condiment. Likewise, I'm guessing the salt would help you either enjoy or forget the whole "I'm gulping down pig's blood" thing.
There's also no consensus on when or how Black soup was served.
Was it a fancy dish meant for special occasions? An everyday staple to start your day right? No one knows. It's said that the pieces of meat were skimmed out and given to younger Spartans. The elders apparently guzzled that murky broth as a perk of their station in life.
Another reason to never grow up, kids.