Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Veni, Vidi… Vomit? (1st C BC)

Veni, Vidi… Vomit? (1st C BC)

By: The Scribe on April, 2007
wall painting, Pompeii, ca. 70 AD]One of the common “facts” taught about ancient Rome, both by public schools and uninformed historians, is that Roman houses contained a special room called a vomitorium, which was set aside for the purpose of purging one’s insides from a recent meal… in order to make room to eat more. The word itself comes from the Latin word vomere, which means “to vomit”.
Fortunately for the Romans, this is simply a  misconception. Vomiting, for those who have experienced such a phenomenon in the past, is typically not an event that any human wishes to endure any more than absolutely necessary – say, during illness – and thus it would be absolute falsity to claim that the entire Roman upper class was semi-bulimic.
Ancient Rome did have vomitorioums, however, but their purpose was entirely unrelated to the consumption of food! Vomitorium was the proper name for an architectural feature of ancient Roman theatres: it was a wide corridor situated below or behind a tier of seats, through which thousands of spectators could file in and out of quickly (or “spew out of”, to keep the nuance of the Latin word).
a  real vomitorium
The vomitoria of the Colosseum in Rome were reportedly able to allow 50,000 people to enter and be seated within 15 minutes; presumably they would be able to exit in an equally rapid manner, thus earning the passageway its name. The misconception of meaning for this term probably came about in the early 1900s, when historians were writing history texts without a correct understanding of Latin… which meant that they could not read texts of the ancient authors… who, when writing about eating excessively and illness afterward, never once mentioned the existence of special room in which one could throw up.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jus porro frigidum in porcellum elixum

Last night, I prepared Cold Sauce for Pork, Apicius 8.7.15 from Cooking Apicius by Sally Grainger. 

2 t caraway seeds
60g pine kernels (I substituted sunflower seeds)
1t dill
1/2t oregano
2T vinegar
1 T garum
2 T date syrup (I mashed up the Dulcia Domesica I had left over)
2 T honey
40g whole grain mustard (I used actual mustard seed)
generous ground black pepper

Roast and grind the seeds in mortar and pestle until uniform paste texture achieved. Mix in thicker liquids (dates, honey), then the thin liquids, (vinegar, garum.)
Mixture makes a paste- rub all over pork loin, and bake @ 425F for 17 minutes. 

The sauce prior to being put on pork
The Final product
I made this to take over to a friend's place to watch the Cowboys lose (again). We served it with chili & beans, and Strawberry Nerds. Everyone smelled the spice rub prior to cooking, and exclaimed that it smelled very strong. We were glad that we were also making chili, in case Apicius had led me wrong. I used the paste I made from the recipe above, and it made enough to cover the entire 1.1lb pork loin in a 1/4" thick coating of the sauce. The pork tenderloin I bought already had been marinated with an Asian marinade, which I thought would nicely complement the garum in the recipe. The sauce ended up being very heavily mustard, which went quite well with the pork. Most whole grain mustards tend to make a good sauce for pork dishes. It was delicious! The honey and dates gave this a sweet taste, while the mustard was tangy. Cooking the tenderloin at 425 made the paste a sort of crust surrounding the pork, which was flaky and tasty. The fish sauce taste mostly baked out of the recipe, or was unnoticeable. The sweetness from the honey and dates did much to mask the bitter taste of defeat that the Cowboys endured, but it went well with the tanginess of the mustard. Everyone said that they'd gladly eat it again.  
~Consul Spartacurtus~

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A guide for epicureans who don't do Chianti

From Variety Magazine- 


Posted: Sun., Oct. 24, 2010, 4:00am PT

Where to eat

A guide for epicureans who don't do Chianti

Fest takes populist approach | Extra eclectic

Reviving Rome's 'La Dolce Vita' | Where to eat | Seeking bargains | Where to visit | Rome after dark | A Gelato crawl through Rome
The old adage "when in Rome" may be a handy excuse for all sorts of transgressions, but it's an apt and accurate mantra for a foodie.
Roman emperor Vitellius (69 AD) feasted at a banquet four times a day and dispatched the Navy to appropriate rare, exotic edibles like peacock brains. Though such gluttony no longer prevails, Romans still sensualize eating and appreciate innovation.
"The gastronomic scene in Rome is ultra-sophisticated today," says Robin Saikia, author of the upcoming Blue Guide Italy Food Companion. "New ideas are constantly blended with traditional methods."
Indeed, many time-honored dishes -- and favorites of Vitellius -- still linger on menus with modifications. For instance, plump spit-roasted dormouse or "il ghiro" was once a staple at a Roman orgy. Nowadays, restaurants substitute roasted quail for rodent and baste it in honey with dates and cumin, notes Saikia.
The delicate bird is also the politically correct replacement for "cavia" or guinea pig, which is stuffed with chopped ham, cheese, herbs and bacon. She recommends Roman escargot or "bovoleto," which are small snails simmered in herbs and garlic and then served with chopped celery, carrots, and red wine. Story has it that the snails -- and perhaps the garlic -- ward off evil spirits.
Ex-pat and food writer Eleanora Baldwin, who leads the "Savoring Rome" culinary tour for Context Travel (, recommends that the daring try "coratella coi carciofi" or the heart, lungs and spleen of the lamb, which are sautéed with artichokes and Marsala wine. Her pick for where to sample: Augustarello in the Testaccio (98 Via Giovanni Branca; 06 574-6585). She also adores "puntarella in salsa d'alici," which is crisp chicory topped with anchovy, vinegar, olive oil and garlic dressing.
"It's perfect to complement the rich and sometimes fatty Roman fare," says Baldwin, who hits Roma Sparita (24 Piazza Santa Cecilia in the Trastevere; 06 580-0757) for her chicory fix.
"Animelle" or lamb sweetbreads, another delicacy for the courageous palette, is offal rolled in flour, dipped in beaten egg and fried alongside artichokes. The best in Rome? Fellini dined on animelle and other ancient Roman specialties at La Campana, (18 Vicolo della Campana in the Pizza Navona;
Eating and drinking local is a new trend in Rome, as the region now boasts its own fantastic wines. "Lazio was never known as a great wine-producing area," says Saveur contributor Brette Jackson, who has seen a recent uptick in enoteche. "But now the Lazali are enjoying the wine and food culture that has always been a popular pastime with the Umbrians and Tuscans."
At Urbana 47 (47 Via Urbana; 06 4788-4006) salumi, wines and ingredients of dishes like zucchini ravioli with amaretto and sliced seared rib-eye steak with chard in a balsamic reduction come from nearby purveyors. Post-midnight, there's a late-night, after-dinner menu served. In the same Monti district, Enoteca Provinicia Romano (82 Largo del Foro Traiano; 06 6766-2424) serves local fare like roasted pork from Ariccia and chocolate from Trappist monasteries.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Please sir, I want more eel spleens

Please sir, I want more eel spleens

The Romans can teach us loads about the flavour and freshness of food. What d'you reckon, Jamie?

I BELIEVE I HAVE HIT on a way to revive the teaching of Latin while simultaneously improving school food. Recent studies of Ancient Roman cookery clearly show that to improve our nutrition we need to go back, not to the basics, but to the classics. So I am today unveiling Cenae scholasticae Jacobi Oliveris (Jamie Oliver’s Roman school dinners).

Here is a sample:

Alternatively, we could introduce set-menus based on specific classical works, such as this banquet recalled in a poem by Martial: tuna with boiled eggs, puls (a sort of muscular risotto made from polished spelt grains) with sausage, bacon and green beans, followed by raisins, Syrian pears and roast chestnuts. Pythagorus favoured a delicious-sounding cucumber salad with raisin-coriander vinaigrette, while Cato, the orator, was partial to herby olive tapenade.

Roman cooking might not appeal to all modern palates, particularly since a prime ingredient was garum, the pungent paste made out of fermented fish entrails. But in truth the Romans were remarkable, inventive cooks who would surely have looked upon the mass-produced, tasteless slop we eat today with deep disdain. Everything the Romans ate was organic, fresh, without additives or colourings, and usually home-produced and home-cooked. There was no waste. Anything edible was eaten, except the bones and the eyes; the Romans ate with the proper reverence, planting, harvesting and slaughtering in conjunction with the gods and constellations. Food was serious, but it was also fun, and in contrast to the snobbery associated with good food today, the ordinary citizens of Ancient Rome were as passionate about their grub as the rich.

Roman fast-food outlets (known as popinae), serving fried fish, ham and sausages, did a roaring trade. The link between diet and wellbeing was appreciated by the ancients, if not fully understood: Pliny believed that vinegar could cure hiccups and would bring down a fever if held in the mouth during a hot bath. The only complete Roman cookbook to survive is that of Apicius, the gourmet; this provides recipes of a sort, though not quantities or proportions. (He favours roasting your ostrich whole, for example, which is tricky without a really huge Aga, and a hammer.) Yet this and other culinary references scattered through the literature testify to the sheer variety of Roman cuisine, which picked up new tastes as the empire expanded.

Apicius lists 34 sauces for fish alone. In addition to garum, the Romans loved to combine sweet and sour tastes, herbs such as cumin, coriander, lovage and tonsil-threatening quantities of pepper. Herb purées, ancestors of pesto, were ground from thyme, pine nuts, rocket and parsley; honey was used to flavour dishes both sweet and savoury. Modern nutritionists might balk at the quantity of salt used for preservation and flavouring, but salt was highly valued and regarded as sacred: the word salary comes from sal, the Latin for salt, this being the currency in which Roman magistrates were paid.

Food was prepared then with a sense of occasion and theatre (admittedly easier if you had slaves to do the washing up): desserts disguised as pyramids, birds sculpted out of veal, root vegetables carved in the shape of fish. A piece of meat that tasted of meat was, in the Roman cookbook, a failure; meat was there as a canvas to be sketched on. Pork alone was believed to have 50 specific flavours. Texture was vital, and some liked it viscous, hence the taste for offal.

The popular image of Romans lying around consuming vast vats of larks’ tongues and periodically throwing up is unfair, for gluttony was rare. There were exceptions, of course: the teenage Emperor Elagabalus dined on the brains of 600 ostriches accompanied by peas laced with gold and rice sprinkled with pearls. Vitellius, it is reported, once ate a dish of parrot livers, peacock brains, flamingo tongues and the spleens of moray eels. And that was merely a starter. Mostly the Romans ate sparingly, and well, with an approach to nourishment that shows up our own bizarre hypocrisies and hang-ups about food.

Many of the people who today eat foie gras, made by force-feeding geese until their livers are near busting, would protest at the Roman technique of making pig’s liver by fattening swine on a diet of beer. We eat such rarities as snipe and woodcock, but would never dream of snacking on a crane, or an owl, or a snake. (Actually I did eat an owl once in China, by mistake; it was a hoot.) The composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is in trouble for consuming a swan that electrocuted itself in powerlines near his home in Orkney. If he hadn’t eaten it, something else would have done so. We recoil at the Roman delicacy made by drowning tiny birds in wine before consuming them whole, yet we seldom spare a thought for the billions of living chickens crammed into cages for a brief, hormone-packed life before being crunched up into nuggets. Given the choice of a battery life and being bombed into the next world on an overdose of Chianti, I know which fate I would prefer.

The Roman way of food has much to teach us, for freshness, inventiveness and pleasure. Bring back meatflavoured cheese, mouse-gruyere sculpted as Big Ben, spleen of eel, and sautéed swan; let us eat anything edible, so long as it is not actually endangered, and let us finish up the leftovers, including the tail and the ears.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Le château met les petits plats dans les grands


This is an article I found about a cooking history class in France, where they're cooking the "cuisine Apicius." They seem to be having fun with it, and getting high school students interested in Latin! 
I think that it's pretty awesome that they're also trying out the favorite dishes from other times in history too - Henry IV?! I can only imagine what he'd eat... Nom nom nom.

The original French can be found ici.


The castle put dishes in large

Wednesday, parents and children are invited to the table of the castle.Their host, Marie-Jose Baldwin, will be running a session test kitchen.

 Marie-José Baudoin anime ateliers et conférences autour de la cuisine à travers les siècles.  Ph. « SO »

Marie-José Baldwin hosts workshops and conferences around the kitchen through the centuries. PH. "NA"

Marie-José Baldwin fell into the pot tiny taste of the good things. But she chose the classics to art. "I then asked:" how high school students interested in Latin? " .By greed ...
Thus it has combined his two passions: good food and beautiful letters. After wading through the cuisine Apicius, "one of our only sources for recipes Roman, Jose Maria invited her students to put into practice revenue. "Everyone had a great time, in every sense of the word! "
This passion for cooking did not stop there. It continued its journey into the kitchens of the story. She arrived in the eighteenth century and the advent of cooking with flowers. "Cooking is a great gateway to explore all the companies and their habits, even the social hierarchy," says the teacher, gourmet. That's the subject of his next response to the castle of Nerac, a movie directed at children.
Garlic Sauce
It is a real sensory workshop which will take place at the castle, next Wednesday, from 14 am 30. Of course, the team's castle and Marie-José Baldwin will explanations of what they ate at the court of Henri IV, the king's favorite dishes ... A little decorum at the table during the Renaissance will also be provided. For example, it was frowned upon, at the time to dig into the dish or to clean their fingernails ... with a knife.
But children and their escorts will also be invited to put their hands in the dough. They will set the table. Here, moreover, how was it presented to the Renaissance? And where does the art of folding towels? All responses will be made through practiced ... and appetizers. In fact, bring water to the mouth without taste buds n'entrevoient of these dishes would not make sense for Marie-José Baudoin that the kitchen "is a reason to live."
Therefore, small hands will be invited to concoct a sauce of garlic, it is said, was popular with the Vert Galant. While some might wince at the mention of this specific recipe, other dishes are provided, more greedy, but equally unexpected ...
"Laboratory experimental cooking, Wednesday, October 27 to 14 h 30.Animation for youngsters from 6 to 12 years, accompanied by an adult.
Single rate: 4 euro.