A New Oenogarum

Deciphering and reinventing ancient recipes is an inexact skill. To some degree, it is more like alchemy than anything else. There is a touch of science in the linguistic, historical or archaeological research; a touch of art in the choosing of ingredients and their relative quantities; and a touch of faith or intuition in what feels right from a culinary point of view. The mark … Read more

Silk Road in the News #7 – Roman Jewelry in 5th C. Japanese Tomb

New evidence of the power and reach of the Silk Road seems to be puzzling and mystifying scholars. Roman jewelry was recently found in in a Japanese tomb dating from the 5th Century ACE. Why this startles anyone is beyond me. The network of maritime and land traders that we now know as the Silk Road linked west and east as far back as 2000 … Read more

Ancient Roman Cookoff Entry 6 – A Roman Roast Lamb Chop

My husband was drawn into the spirit of the cook-off again and prepared an elegant and delicious Roman roast lamb chop for us. He based his recipe on Apicius 8.6.8: The Raw Kid or Lamb: Haedus Sive Agnus Crudus. The original directions are about as simple as simple can be and read: “Is rubbed with oil and pepper and sprinkled with plenty of clean salt … Read more

Variation in Roman Cooking: The Tale of the Cucumber and the Melon

This post recounts the results of an experiment that took place recently between me and my husband. In the Apician cookbook there are two recipes very close together that can be used for either cucumbers or melons: PEPPER, PENNYROYAL, HONEY OR CONDENSED MUST, BROTH AND VINEGAR; ONCE IN A WHILE ONE ADDS SILPHIUM. (Apicius III.6.3 (for cucumbers) and III.7.1 (for melons)) Ingredients are listed, but … Read more

They Went That-a-Way: How the Roman Emperors Died

As fitting to the Roman Cookoff as the Mesopotamian Rap was to our exploration of that culture’s cuisine, is a recent post by Josh Fruhlinger on how the Roman emperors died. Sure the job had perks, but it also had real pitfalls as well. Murder and assassination are by far the most common causes of death for the emperors with some of the killings being … Read more

Ancient Roman Cookoff Entry 4 – Mixed Meat Patella by Sally Grainger

For our fourth entry in the Ancient Roman Cookoff, we have none other than Sally Grainger cooking for us. Sally is author of Cooking Apicius: Roman Recipes for Today and with historian Andrew Dalby, she is co-author of The Classical Cookbook and its recently revised edition. For her entry, she chose a patella of mixed meat. The original recipe calls for tidbits of fine meats … Read more

Ancient Roman Cookoff Entry 3 – Patella with Sardines and Garum

Italian abroad, webmistress of La Caffettiera Rosa and friend of Silk Road Gourmet, Caterina G, has tried her hand at an Ancient Roman recipe for the cookoff: Patella with Sardines and Garum. It is another egg-based dish that in Caterina’s hands became something like a frittata flavored with fish and the garum that I sent her from my production run here in the US. Caterina … Read more

Ancient Roman Cookoff Entry 2 Two – Sauces for Fowl and a Patina of Asparagus and Grouse

Friend of Silk Road Gourmet, Ms. Deana Sidney, of Lost Past Remembered has cooked several recipes with the garum I sent her. From her magical kitchen come two sauces for chicken or fowl and a cold patina of asparagus and grouse (or figpecker, should you have one on hand) that use the garum I produced in the backyard last year. Please check out her post, … Read more

Ancient Roman Cookoff Entry 1 – Pullus Frontonianus by Charles Perry

First up in our Ancient Roman cookoff is an entry by noted scholar, author and food writer, Charles Perry. Charles chose to prepare Pullus Frontonianus which is chicken prepared with a selection of delicious herbs, including dill, leeks, savory and cilantro. To this a touch of garum is added and when cooking is complete, the dish is dressed with grape syrup (defrutum) and black pepper … Read more

Cookoff Challenge # 2 – Ancient Rome

During the month of April, I will be holding an Ancient Roman Cookoff to use the garum that I made last year and to consider the effects it has on flavor and the perception of taste. Since this cookoff involves the use of an ingredient of limited quantity, I have invited a few colleagues and friends to join us in this effort. Exploring Ancient Roman … Read more

Umami in a Bottle

Here it is, the real deal! Amber-colored culinary gold! The first results from last summer’s backyard garum making! As some of you may remember, back in June of last year I started making garum in my backyard with fresh mackerel and lots of sea salt. I also wrote the “garum diaries” until mid-September which described the first 90 days or so of the initial enzymatic … Read more

Ancient Roman Game Marinade

Good taste never goes out of style. That’s why I used this adapted Ancient Roman game marinade recipe from the ancient Roman book, “On the Subject of Cooking” that is often attributed to Apicius. The recipe made a marinade and gravy for a recent family dinner featuring venison osso bucco. It was a holiday crowd pleaser and one of the best game dishes I ever … Read more

Caveat Venditor (Merchant Beware!)

“O thunder-and-lightning-hurling Iao, strike, bind, bind together Babylas the greengrocer . . . As you struck the chariot of Pharaoh, so strike Babylas’ offensiveness . . . O thunder—and-lightning-hurling Iao, as you cut down the firstborn of Egypt, cut down his livestock!” A delightful, if not a bit frightening artifact from everyday life in Roman Antioch has recently been deciphered to reveal a curse against … Read more

Making Garum – The Traditional Way

I said we were going to do it in the original post on garum. And so we have. Our attempt to make garum the traditional, slow way has officially begun. Fifteen pounds of fresh, whole Norwegian mackerel, and 12 pounds of sea salt have been combined in a clean, sturdy, sealable, 5-gallon painter’s bucket. And now we wait, and let the heat and humidity turn … Read more

A Roman Holiday

When in Rome – we did as the tourists do. With our young children in tow, we spent unspeakably hot days touring the Forum and Coliseum; spent a morning in the Capitoline Museum and an afternoon on the Palatine Hill under the pines of Rome. Being raised in my father’s Italian-American hometown, every face seemed familiar to me – dark hair, big brown eyes, aquiline … Read more

Culinary History Mysteries #2 – Ice Cream!

Triple digit temperatures have hit the Central Atlantic once again, leaving locals and visitors alike to find any way they can to keep the mercury down.  Some become shut-ins moving between their air-conditioned homes to their air-conditioned cars to their air-conditioned jobs and back again; some take to the beaches, lakes and pools to swim and soak the heat away; still others turn to cold … Read more