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A Love Song of Shu-Suen

Roast Chicken with Herbs

Cultural Perspectives

By Tim Hazell

Women of Sumer held careers, owned property, and occupied high positions in society. Enlightened women left their mark on affairs of state and enjoyed freedoms that set them apart from many cultures, until we arrive at the modern era. Their strikingly contemporary profiles and openly expressed eroticism prove that emancipation had surfaced and been obliterated in cycles. Through records that have survived millennia, we can trace definitions of feminine mystique and its constant reconstruction.

A handful of our most explicit love poems were written over 2000 years before the birth of Christ. “Songs of Enheduanna,” a Sumerian high priestess, were set down in cuneiform between late 2,300 and early 2,200 BC. Enheduanna’s father, King Sargon I, united Sumer and Akkad (southern and northern Mesopotamia), located in what is now Iraq. Her love poem, “Man of My Heart,” is a celebration of women taking pleasure in sensuality.

Man Of My Heart

Man of my heart, my beloved man,

your allure is as sweet as honey.

Lad of my heart, my beloved man,

your allure is a sweet thing, as sweet as honey.

You have captivated me,

of my own free will I will come to you.

Man, let me flee with you—into the bedroom.

My precious sweet, let me bring you honey.

In the bedchamber dripping with honey …

The Sumerian diet consisted of fish, fowl, and domestic livestock, barley, wheat, millet, chickpeas, lentils, beans, onions, garlic, and leeks and more! By the time Sumer was succeeded by Babylon, a special delicacy had been discovered that was dispatched to the royal palace by the basketful—truffles. This recipe is a modern adaption from three ancient texts.

Chicken with Herbs Sumerian Style


1 to 3 lb chicken

1/2 cup coriander chopped

1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. vinegar

3 tbsp. canola oil

1 leek, quartered and carefully rinsed

3 cloves garlic

2 spring onions, chopped

1 cup yogurt

1 cup water


Combine chopped coriander, mint, salt, vinegar, and oil in a bowl and rub chicken thoroughly inside and out. Cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. Puree leek, garlic, shallots, and yogurt in a blender. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put chicken on its side in a roasting pan large enough to hold it and roast for 30 minutes. Turn bird over and roast on the other side for 20 minutes. Turn chicken on its back, reduce heat to 350 F. and continue to roast for another hour, basting occasionally with pan juices. Transfer chicken to a serving platter and keep warm in a 100 F. oven. Drain off excess fat from roasting pan. Add water and heat over medium flame to deglaze pan drippings. Add pureed leek, garlic, spring onions, yogurt, salt, and pepper to taste and heat through, stirring constantly. Remove chicken from the oven and carve into serving pieces. Spoon a little sauce over the chicken and serve on the side.


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