naso's song

that naso’s song may flower for all time


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Classics Kitchen: Pop-Up at University of Reading’s ‘Experiencing Ancient Education’

Last week we had a fantastic day with our Classics Kitchen Pop-Up at the University of Reading as part of the Being Human Festival where the Classics Department put on a recreation of an ancient schoolroom, organised by Professor Eleanor Dickey, based on an ancient classroom recently excavated in Egypt. Children from local schools were given the opportunity to don handmade Roman clothes and experience in ancient education, writing on papyrus, copying poetry from pottery and doing equations in Roman numerals. For more details of the schoolroom, take a look at the Reading Classics blog.To Upload 3Meanwhile, our Classics Kitchen set up outside, offering students and staff the chance to taste ancient Greek and Roman food made from recipes found in ancient authors, all collated in our Classics Kitchen recipe books. We served spelt bread with Cato’s olive relish and Roman pesto, Athenaeus’ cheese & honey biscuit, itrion (sesame biscuits set in honey) and fig and wine cakes, which went down very well with the staff especially!To UploadInteractive demonstrations also gave children a hands-on experience of the crops grown in ancient Rome and enabled them to learn more about the Roman diet. To Upload 2The day was great success and we look forward to many more pop-up events like this one!
Ancient DeliasAnd we even made it into the local newspaper!Newspaper Debut!

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Classics Kitchen: Moretum, Roman Garlic Cheese Spread

Today has been a cooking frenzy/ baking marathon in preparation for our Classics Kitchen pop-up tomorrow at the Experiencing Ancient Education event run by Reading University as part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities, where we’ll be giving food demos, sharing ancient recipes and providing Roman food. Recipes for all the food we will be serving (and many more!) can be found in our recipe book – from savoury dishes including Roman-style pesto, olive relish and fish sauce to sweet treats including fig and wine cake and itrion (sesame biscuits).IMG_6331

Now for one final recipe before the big event…

This recipe is taken from a poem in hexameter (probably wrongly) attributed to Virgil, describing Simylus, a humble farmer, preparing a meal for himself before going out to plough his fields. First he picks the garlic, celery, rue and coriander from his garden and combines them with a hard cheese, olive oil and vinegar, which he then eats with a loaf of freshly baked bread made by his slave.

First, lightly digging into the ground with his fingers, he pulls up four heads of garlic with their thick leaves; then he picks slim celery tops and sturdy rue and the thin stems of trembling coriander. With these collected he sits before the fire and sends the slave girl for a mortar. He seasons with grains of salt and after the salt, hard cheese is added; then he mixes in the herbs. With the pestle in his right works at the fiery garlic, then he crushes all alike in a mixture. His hand circles. Gradually the ingredients lose theior individuality; out of the many colours emerges one – neither whole green (for the white tempers it), nor shining white ( since tinted by so many herbs). The work goes on: not jerkily, as before, but more heavily the pestle makes its slow circuits. So he sprinkles in some drops of Athena’s olive oil and adds a little sharp vinegar and agains works the mixture together. Then at length he runs two fingers round the mortar, gathering the whole mixture into a ball, so as to produce the form and name of a finished moretum.

– Appendix Vergiliana 2.4

Moretum IngredientsIngredients

3 garlic cloves
1tsp celery
1 tsp coriander
1tsp salt
100g pecorino/ parmesan
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil

Method

  • Chop the garlic, celery and coriander and grate the pecorino
  • Add all the ingredients to a food processor
  • Purée until you have a smooth consistency
  • Spread on fresh bread to serve (I recommend ciabatta!)

There are obvious similarities with this and the Roman Pesto I made recently, taken from Columella and De Re Rustica (book 11) contains other recipes for moretum also very similar to this one.

Moretum


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Ovid’s Garden: Digging!

On a cold and wet day in November, a group of volunteers from the Classics & Ancient History department at the University of Birmingham and staff from Winterbourne House & Gardens braved the elements to begin work on Ovid’s Garden! We had the muddy task of lifting the turf from the site and digging the main path in front of the garden to make way for the hard landscaping elements.Blog MontageFuelled by some excellent cake and brownies, we lifted all the turf by midday and by the afternoon the site was completely cleared. Whilst digging the main path, we even unearthed some exciting finds, excavating clay pipes and pieces of pottery, identified by our resident archaeologist Meagan Mangum, which will be displayed at Winterbourne for visitors to see!ExcavatingNow the turf and the main pathway have been dug, the beds have been marked out and the remaining paths around these will need to be dug out as well. After this, edging will go around the plot and beds, then a sub base will go into the pathways before gravel is put over the top. The next step will be to prepare the beds and plant the bulbs. PlotSpecial thanks goes to the volunteers from the Classics & Ancient History department at University of Birmingham who gave up their valuable time for a day of digging in the rain with me – Meagan Mangum, Ruth Léger and Phil Myers; and also to the gardeners and volunteers from Winterbourne.
IMG_6271


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Ovid’s Garden: Design Plans

As part of my PhD exploring the influence of Ovid in Italian Renaissance gardens I am delighted to be working in partnership with Grade II listed Arts & Crafts villa Winterbourne House & Gardens to recreate an Italian Renaissance garden based upon plantings inspired by Ovid’s botany, which has been designed by acclaimed landscape designer Kathryn Aalto.WinterbourneMy research explores how Italian Renaissance gardens were designed to impart a narrative, retelling the mythology of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Fasti through the use of landscaping, fountains, sculpture and crucially, botany. This garden will form an essential part of my research and enable me to explore the sensory experience of the garden, particularly through the practical uses of its plants in both Roman and Renaissance perfumery, medicine and cooking, as well as demonstrating the symbolism and literary allusion central to the design of Italian Renaissance gardens.

Master

Each tree, shrub, flower or herb in the garden has been chosen for its significance in Ovid’s narrative and the Italian Renaissance garden, whether it had a practical or symbolic function.

Once the garden is planted and growing I will be giving talks and running workshops at Winterbourne, exploring the properties and uses of these plants from ancient times to the modern day, offering a hands-on, interactive experience of plants including food demonstrations, concocting medicines and even making perfumes, so keep an eye on the blog for details nearer the time!

Flower BorderHerb Border copyAfter a long planning and funding application process, we’re now ready to start implementing the design at Winterbourne and digging begins next Tuesday. Follow the blog to receive regular updates on the progress of the garden and feel free to drop into Winterbourne on Tuesday to find out how we’re getting on! Watch this space for Ovid’s Garden…

Ovid's Garden


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Classics Kitchen: Cato’s Olive Relish

My ancient recipes experimentation continues in preparation for our Classics Kitchen pop-up at the Experiencing Ancient Education event run by Reading University as part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities, where we’ll be giving food demos, sharing ancient recipes and providing Roman food. The event is on 19th November, so there’s still plenty of time to try and test out recipes that will feature on the day!

In the Odyssey when the suitors arrive to woo Penelope in the long absence of her husband Odysseus, they are treated with the customary xenia and served with a meals which included bread accompanied by an assortment of relishes:

A maid poured water from a beautiful gold jug over the visitors’ hands into a silver bowl and drew up a carved table. An aged housekeeper had put out bread, adding many relishes, and encouraged them to taste all that was in the house.

Homer, Odyssey 1.136-43

Although the text does not state what the relishes were made of, it isprobable that some would have been made from olives.  The olive tree (Olea europaea) was native to the Mediterranean and had been cultivated in Greece for at least a thousand years before the Iliad and the Odyssey were composed. Olives were also a staple part of the ancient Greek diet and served at banquets, so it is likely that one of the relishes served would have been similar to the one described centuries later by Cato:

How to make green, black or mixed olive relish. Remove stones from green, black or mixed olives, then prepare as follows: chop them and add oil, vinegar, coriander, cumin, fennel, rue and mint. Pot them: the oil should cover them. It is ready to use.

Cato, On Agriculture 119

Olive Relish IngredientsIngredients

60g black olives
60g green olives
(or 120g of one type)
30ml white wine vinegar
30ml olive oil
1/2 tsp fennel
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp mint

Method

  • Chop the olives, fennel, coriander and mint finely and mix together in a bowl
  • Add the vinegar and olive oil and combine the ingredients
  • Eat fresh or keep in a sealed container for a few days to allow the flavours to develop
  • Serve with bread

I’ve made this a lot of the summer for barbecues and it always went down well and people were always surprised its an ancient recipe!

Olive Relish