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: 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


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Classics Kitchen: Apicius’ Melon with Mint Dressing

At the moment I’m experimenting with a lot of Roman recipes in preparation for an upcoming event at University of Reading that the Classics Kitchen will be at on 19th November, where we’ll be giving food demos, sharing ancient recipes and serving Roman food. My good friend Stef (@stefanieindevon) over at Flavouring the Moment and I have been asked by Professor Eleanor Dickey (who taught us both Latin during our MA!) to participate in a project run by the Classics Department at Reading University ‘Experiencing Ancient Education‘, recreating a Roman classroom as part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities. An ancient schoolroom will be recreated for one day and visitors will be invited to experience first-hand what education was like in the Roman empire. The Classics Kitchen will be offering a hands-on, interactive experience of ancient ingredients, food preparation and cooking methods with food demonstrations, as well as selling Roman food and recipe booklets so people can learn and eat like Romans for the day!

So from now until November I’ll be trying and testing recipes for the event. First up, Apicius’ melon with mint dressing…

Pepones et Melones. ‘Gourds & Melons’
Pepper, pennyroyal, honey or condensed must, broth and vinegar, once in a while one adds silphium
– Apicius
3.7

IngredientsIngredients

1 melon (honeydew or Galia)
2 tbsp mint
2 tbsp spoons honey
2 tbsp spoons white wine vinegar
1 tbsp spoon nam pla (or other fish sauce)
pepper

Method

  • Cut and chop the melon into small squares, set aside
  • Combine the mint, honey, vinegar, fish sauce and pepper
  • Pour the sauce over the melon pieces and leave to absorb the flavours for 15 mins before serving
  • Serve topped with a few mint leaves

Final

I learnt my lesson from the time I made Apicius’ Boiled Eggs in Pine Nut Sauce when I used anchovy paste (big mistake – it tasted awful!) so I used used nam pla fish sauce as a substitute for garum this time. The dressing was tangy and the infusion of aromatic mint made it distinctly refreshing, but I found the white wine vinegar made the sauce a little too acidic for my taste. However, the cool freshness of mint complimented the sweetness of the melon beautifully – it’s a great combination of flavours I intend to use again. The crisp, clean flavours of this dish make it a great starter, especially as its so quick and easy to make.