Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The End

This week is something special to me.  Not only is school coming to an end, but so is my internship.  During these fifteen weeks I have learned to collect information, to blog, and to create a webpage all while writing a research paper.  My knowledge has grown in a variety of ways and I have learned so many things that I did not think would interest me in the past.  This week I turned in my research paper and created a web page for the Medieval Studies Center website.  I have never created a web page, but I thought it was fun and pleasurable experience.  Hopefully it will make my resume look better.  During this time I would like to thank Dr. Gross-Diaz and Dr. Roberts for all their help and for giving me this wonderful opportunity that has benefited my knowledge and skills.  I hope everyone enjoyed reading my blogs and has a good finals week.  Good luck to all and I hope everyone enjoys summer!!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nearing the End!

This weeks blog is just a personal reflection of all the work I have done thus far in the semester and what I have been working on this week.  For starters, we are in the fourteenth week of school, which means we have one more week of regular classes and then finals week!  These fourteen weeks have been a journey in terms of the internship.  I have never had to do something like this, but it was definitely worth the experience.  I have learned how to blog and now will learn how to set up my own web page.  Meanwhile I have also learned so much about Roman gardens, as well as Medieval gardens that will stay in my memory for a long time.  I was surprised with how serious the Romans took gardening, but also with how important gardening actually was and is now.  Working for the Medieval Studies Center has been an unforgettable experience.

During this week I have finished writing my paper and am now in the process of proofreading it as well as sending it to a friend to also proofread it.  While writing the paper for the last couple of weeks I found it a little challenging to condense all the information I had collected into a 12-15 page paper.  If you have been keeping up with my blogs you know what I mean (I have been writing a lot).  At the same time it was beneficial; I'd rather have too much information than not enough!

Also this week I met up with Dr. Roberts and discussed setting up my web page.  He emailed me information about setting up a page through WordPress and I'm hoping one of his graduate students will help me with this.  I am a little nervous because I have never done something like this before, but I'm sure I will pull through! 

Hope everyone enjoys the rest of the week! Till next time...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Last Bits on Medieval Gardens

Today's blog will probably be one of the last informative blogs in terms of discussing sources.  The work I dealt with this week was The History of Gardens by Christopher Thacker.  While the book looks at the history of all gardens in general, Thacker divides it by different time periods and regions.  Of course the only part I was interested in was that on Medieval Gardens.  What I enjoyed from this particular work was how straightforward and simple it was; it was definitely an easy read.  I also liked that Thacker provided many pictures that make it easy to comprehend what Medieval Gardens look like.

Thacker opens up this chapter by talking about herb gardens which were very popular in the medieval period.  Let us not forget that these same gardens were also popular in the Roman world.  He explains that gardens were generally important in the Roman West, but basically disappeared after the fall of the empire and did not reappear for another seven or eight hundred years until the late Middle Ages.  For example, not much was known on these gardens until the years of Charlemagne (9th c. AD) from which three documents have been discovered. (1) 

While I will not be discussing all three documents, I have chosen to discuss one which is the poem by Walafrid Strabo, a monk.  Strabo's poem called Hortulus is written in Latin and is 444 lines long. In it Strabo provides various instructions about a gardeners life, how to make a garden, and the appearances, quantities, and uses of the plants that one grows in these gardens.  He also includes the plants that were grown in these gardens which include sage, rue, penny-royal  celery, radish, gourd, chervil, lily, poppy, iris, and rose; the rose was popular in Roman gardens. Strabo makes sure to differentiate the various plants for particular gardens.  For instance he mentions that the iris, lily, and rose were used in ornamental gardens, but also had uses in cuisine, herbs, and medicine.  The lily for example was used to cure snake bites. (2)

Next up, Thacker discusses the features of Medieval gardens.  Most, if not all, were square shaped and enclosed.  In general, everything was geometrically shaped in these gardens.  What differentiates these gardens from Roman ones is that during the Medieval period, people set up gardens for religious purposes.  In the Roman Empire people just incorporated religion into their home gardens.  The gardens had hedges and trellis work, but unlike Roman gardens, they also had grass!  The earliest record of instructions for making a grassy lawn is in Albertus Magnus' (1193-1280) De Vegetabilibus written in 1260.  Gardens also included turf seats (raised banks with turf), which reminded me of the benches that were in Roman gardens.  The difference here being that these seats were located at the edges of the grass, or by a tree or wall. (3)

In terms of what was actually grown in these gardens, Thacker mentions some of the trees and plants.  He says that trees were used for their beauty and pleasure, and were usually grafted and very productive.  The main plants that were grown were to be used as herbs, which were also the most important.  After herbs came fruit trees and vegetables, and finally were flowers.  Thacker maintains that Medieval gardens also had small hills in them, either located in the center or by the side.  The whole purpose of these hill were so they could be used as a vantage point from where the beautiful features of the garden could be seen. Below is an illustration of a Medieval Garden. (4)

Medieval Garden from 5th c. manuscript of Roman de la Rose from The History of Medieval Gardens.

The last and final area Thacker discusses,  and the one I find very interesting is that of fantasy Gardens.  These gardens start off as simple, but increasingly become more "ambitious, colorful, and extravagant."  These gardens had many exotic species of trees like pomegranates  nutmegs, almonds, figs and dates.  Next were more native fruits tress like laurels, pines, olives, and tall timbers.  Lastly, there were also animals, some of which were squirrels, does, rabbits, and a variety of birds. (5)

This concludes my discussion of Thacker's book, but I would like to say a bit about what else I am working on.  As mentioned in the last blog, I have already started working on my paper and have emailed that to my instructor.  While I am waiting for feedback on that I am going to continue working on the rest of my paper.  Hopefully I will get all of it done by the end of this week so I can start working on the website!  Till next time!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Medieval Gardening Continued

This week's blog will be a continuation of last weeks in terms of discussing Medieval gardens.  I will be talking about the uses of the plants from Medieval gardens which range from medicinal uses to domestic uses  and finally to ritual and magical uses.  As I mentioned in my last blog the semester is coming to a close in a few weeks and my focus will be turned to writing the paper and creating the website.  For this reason, the next few blogs will be shorter than earlier ones.

In her book Medieval Gardens, Elisabeth MacDougall discusses the various plant species that existed in Medieval gardens and how they were utilized in every day life.  One aspect of Medieval gardens was the utilization of root plants such as carrots, beets, and turnips.  Not only were these plants  eaten, but they were also used in Medieval medicine.  Among the most common gardening plants were onions, leeks, and garlic.  A variety of legumes were also planted in these Medieval gardens and included peas, beans, lentil, and chickpeas.  Leafy vegetables like cabbage (most common), lettuce, endive, and spinach to name a few, were also planted in these gardens.  Herbs were also planted, mainly so that their leaves could be used as spices or in medicaments.  Fruit trees were also planted in Medieval gardens, the two most popular being apple and pears.  Some other fruit trees included cherries and quinces which were much more utilized in Medieval cuisine. (1)

In terms of seasoning, people during the Medieval period used herbs in large quantities in order to cover up, enhance, or just cook dishes.  Herbs served other purposes of flavoring breads, pastries, cheeses, beverages, and to create medicines.  The seeds from the herbs were also used and flavor was extracted from the leaves. (2)

One of the areas MacDougall discusses is the use of these plant species when treating people "externally."  The macerated leek for instance was applied to skin in order to treat sores.  Mustard plaster was used to treat the common cold by applying it on the chest.  Leaves from various plants were used to close wounds and to stop the loss of blood.  Certain leaves from cabbages and beats were used to create dressings and bandages.  Herbs were mixed with oil or grease to make ointments.  Different plants were also used to alleviate pain.  Oftentimes, those in the Medieval period used the same recipes the Greeks and Romans used to make certain medicaments. (3)

Another area discussed in the book is the domestic use of garden plants.  Species were used to make dyes, perfumes, and cosmetics.  One specific example is the use of woad to make blue dye..  Petals and/or foilage were used to make food coloring, while sage leaves were used to color hair black.  Other remedies include the use of onion juice to remove freckles and calendula to remove warts.  Rosemary, lily petals, roses, and violets were used to add scents to water.  Medieval peoples also used plants to make glue; they used quince seed, marshmallow root, and cherry gum.  Plant species were also used to make chaplets, garlands, and wreaths.  This became a big business in urban cities, but was also a hobby within individual households. (4)

The last group of species were used for ritual and magical purposes.  Plants and plant products were used to avoid certain natural processes.  Other plants such as artemisia, calendula, and verbena were believe to be apotropaic (Ward off evil spirits and monsters).  Just by carrying a portion of these plants, one would be protected.  Another example is the narcissus bulb that was kept in the house and believed to protect its occupants.  The stalk of fennel or verbena were believed to have the power of "eliminating demons." (5)

I especially enjoy MacDougall's discussion of the various uses of Medieval garden plants.  I think she did a great job in her discussion of the medicinal and ritual uses of these plants; in fact, I thought they were very interesting!  

During this week I have also started working on my paper which is going well! I got seven pages down so far and I'm looking forward to finishing some more before the week ends.  The fact that I did these weekly blogs the entire semester has made it easier to gather my thoughts and write the paper.  Looking forward to the last few weeks of school!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Roman and Medieval Gardening

This week's blog is going to discuss Roman gardens and their uses a little more and then I want to jump into Medieval gardens and discuss their characteristics as well as some of their influences.  This week's blog will be a little shorter than the rest for two reasons.  One, I will not be including pictures like I have done for my previous blogs, primarily due to the fact that the sources I have looked at do not include any and I do not want to pull random pictures from the Internet.  Two, I have started gathering my information now and am now in the process of starting my paper this weekend.  As the semester is entering its final month, I will be working more and more on my paper and website.  The rough draft to my paper is due next week so I hope I pull through!

The first source I looked at this week was K. D. White's Roman Farming, and the second source I looked at was Elisabeth B. MacDougall's Medieval Gardens.

As with one of the sources I looked at earlier in the semester, White looks at the drainage and irrigation systems used by the Romans to hydrate their gardens.  There was no way anyone in the Mediterranean could do without water and later irrigation because of the hot climate.  Another reason irrigation was necessary was the fact that most crops grew when the temperature was the hottest and the rainfall was the least.  At the same time, however, it was difficult to conserve water due to the fact that it oftentimes did not rain enough in the winter.  Conservation of water can actually be attributed to the Mesopotamians who were the first ever to create a system that kept in water, and also the first to take action in terms of flood control.  The Egyptians had also set up irrigation systems along the Nile so that they could hydrate their gardens. (1)

In terms of actual records regarding Roman drainage and irrigation, not much has been recovered, primarily due to the fact that the Romans were considerably poorer in folklore than there Greek counterparts, for example.  This does not mean that they did not have irrigation systems.  In general the Mediterranean is abundant when it comes to tuberous plants and herbs.  For instance, marrows and gourds require a lot of water.  So as the Romans worked to create and then improve their irrigation systems, the better irrigation allowed for an increase in the amount of vegetables available to each family. (2)

White explains that three key things were needed for a market-gardener in the Roman world to produce in abundance: manure, water, and patience.  White refers to Cato and how Cato believed that during the 2nd century an irrigated produce garden was the second most profitable business after a vineyard.  In some cases, growing certain crops like bulbs and legumes, were a year round business.  Water being one of the most important parts of gardening, was brought in several ways.  One method was channeling it in through natural springs (fons), and another way was gather it from wells (puteus); the second method was preferred by the Romans.  A third, but even less popular method was to build furrows that would lead water down hills and into gardens. (3)

The kitchen garden (hortus) was a big part of the lifestyle of early Romans.  The reason for this being that the Roman diet was primarily vegetarian during this time.  Early Romans ate porridges instead of baked breads, various beans, roots (carrots and radishes), and greens (peas, cabbage, lettuce).  According to Virgil's Georgics, the soil of the hortus should be "friable and permeable" and placed near a stream for a ready water supply.  (4) 

While White discusses many aspects of Roman irrigation, he does not go into great detail about it as a whole.  Other sources I have looked at focus on the Roman garden in general, but White does not.  Elisabeth MacDougall's book on the other hand focuses on Medieval gardens as a whole and talks in great detail about them.  Today I will be focusing on MacDougall's discussion of the alimentary and medicinal uses of Medieval gardens, the garden types, and the types of species planted in these gardens.

MacDougall makes it clear that there are several sources and records of plants and tress that have been "grown, maintained, and collected" to be used for food and/or medicine.  Before she gets into that she explains that it is important to study the Greco-Roman roots for three reasons. (5)

The first reason is the actual connection between the plants grown in the Roman West and those grown during the Middle Ages.  One of the explanations for this could be the territorial overlapping of both; i.e. Italy, southern Germany, most of France, and much of Britain, all during the Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  During the Middle Ages they even used the classical Greco-Roman names that were used earlier to identify plants.  Going along with that, classical botanical knowledge was an "extension" of classical botanical knowledge. (6)

The second reason is the fact that the same plant species were used for almost a millennium for the same purposes.  As mentioned earlier, plants were used for their nutrition, but also for medicine.  The only background information that can be acquired for plants was through Greco-Roman texts; if they did not have a plant, nothing was known about it.  The uses and purposes for some species are still unclear to us today. (7)

The third reason is to discover exactly why those species were used for specific conditions.  Since garden space was limited, it was only appropriate for those that served more than one purpose to have the "upper-hand" and be prioritized.  All the medicinal plants we have records of did serve two or more purposes.  The plants used during the Roman times help expand Medieval civilizations; 350 species were used in Roman times for alimentary and medicinal purposes, all of which were known by name by the 12th c.  One group of species, referred to as salsamenta, was used for seasoning or flavoring.  Some of these plants included dill, garlic, marjoram, rue, and sage. (8)

Next MacDougall discusses the different garden types and explains that gardens were designed based on their purposes and varied in size and appearance.  

The first garden type and probably most popular was the kitchen garden.  Its main purpose was the "raising of food stuffs" and growing things for nourishment.  Depending on its location near the cottage or home, the size and shape of the garden varied.  The other purpose of this type of garden was to provide as much produce as possible in the limited space given.  Some of the main plants grown were cabbage, onion, some root veggies and certain legumes like beans, peas, or lentils. (9)

The second garden and perhaps second in popularity was the medicinal garden.  Its purpose was to provide medicinal plants that were to be used individually or as ingredients in compounds.  MacDougall argues that this garden must resemble our modern-day herb garden and may have contained anise, coriander, fennel, hyssop, and savory. (10)

The third garden was the Patrician garden that was usually associated with prosperous householders, in both rural and urban areas.  Contained both alimentary and ornamental plants, but it also had a medicinal role.  All the species grown in this garden also played a symbolic role in Medieval society. (11)

The fourth garden was the cloister garden that was set within a "religious establishment" and used mostly for meditation, but could also be used for other things.  We do not know much about this garden because not much is written about it.  The one thing we do know is the three main species planted in this garden: red rose, the white, lily, and the humble violet. (12)

The fifth and final type of garden was the pleasure garden used, well, for pleasure.  It contained flowering plants, ornamental shrubs, and fruit trees, and usually had a grassy lawn (viridarium).  Unlike cloister gardens, we have good records that discuss the species planted in these gardens.  Some of the most popular species were lavender, fennel, or mint, and fruit trees. (13)

The next topic discussed by MacDougall and the final topic I will be discussing in this blog is that of Medieval garden species.  According to MacDougall, there are probably 275-300 known species from the Medieval period.  Even though I emphasized earlier that many of the species were grown for alimentary and medicinal purposes, that was not the case for all plants.  MacDougall discusses that there are six different sources from which we get our information on Medieval plants species from. 

The first group of sources are primary sources like those of Charlemagne (Capitulare de Villis), the Plan of St. Gall, and Walahfrid Strabo's Liber de cultura hortorum.  The second group of sources comes from descriptions of individual private gardens. (14)

The third source comes from literature, specifically passages, chapters, or sections from the works like Boccacio, Petrarch, and Chaucer.  The fourth source is from philological means from Medieval Latin and vernacular nomenclature. (15)

The fifth source of information comes from "the chemical and physiological activity of many temperate zone species" that have been worked out and help confirm the identification of various plants whose identities were not finalized previously.  The sixth and final source or sources are that of paintings, miniatures, tapestries, and other art objects.  The only problem with this is that if there is not enough detail plants may not be identified.  Also, just because a plant was depicted in Medieval art, it does not meant that it was grown in the Greco-Roman world. (16)

MacDougall's book is an amazing representation of Medieval gardens, but I would have appreciated if her and White would have added some pictures, just to give readers a visual sense of what they are talking about.  Within the next couple of weeks I hope to learn more about Medieval gardens and also to get my paper done so that I could set up the website! Happy Easter to all those celebrating and God bless!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Importance of Horticulture in Roman History

In this weeks blog my goal is to look at how agriculture (and even horticulture) became an important part of the Roman Empire and cuisine.  What is special about this blog is that I actually made a Roman dessert this week.  Even though the dessert was not hard to make in any sense, it was still interesting.  I was thinking of maybe even taking it a step further and making an actual entree for another blog, but we will see...Roman dishes are not simple!  The book I looked at this week is Cuisine & Culture: a History of Food and People by Linda Civitello.  Unlike previous books that I have looked at that focus solely on the Roman Empire, Civitello's book looks at cuisines from different cultures across vast periods of time.

When it comes to the Romans, Civitello starts off with a little history.  Rome was founded in 753 BC by twins Romulus and Remus.  Legend has it that the two were born underneath an olive tree, which symbolized that they were descendants of a god, in this case Mars (god of war) and a Latin princess.  The twins were said to have been abandoned, but saved and raised by a she-wolf.  When they got older, Romulus murdered Remus in order to gain supreme control and rule over the now existent city of Rome.  Unlike the story of Romulus and Remus, the actual city of Rome is not a myth and was founded on the 7 hills, near the Tiber River.  The river played a crucial role in terms of defense and trade, the latter made possible due to the large salt deposits near the river. (1)

Romulus and Remus suckling the she-wolf.

Seeing that the Romans lived in close proximity with the Greeks, it would only see natural for them to affect one another.  One way they influenced each other was religiously.  Romans borrowed the Greek gods and goddesses of Olympus and made them their own after having been introduced to them by the Greeks that lived in Sicily.  After periods of wars, the Romans brought over Greek slaves who also brought the Greek cuisine along with them.  They also brought with them the love of wine with the saying, "in wine there is truth!" (In vino veritas). (2)

From 264 to 146 BC, the Romans partook in the Grain Wars, better known as the Punic Wars.  In these wars they fought the Phoenicians whose capital city was Carthage.  The main objective for either side was to get control of the trade in the Western Mediterranean, especially the grain fields in Sicily.  During the second of these wars, the Phoenician general Hannibal surprised the Romans from attacking northern Italy and in the process destroyed fields of wheat and barley, as well as orchards of apples, pears, and lemons.  Subsequently the Romans attacked Carthage and burnt the entire city, spreading salt all over it so nothing can ever grow there again.  As a result of these wars and the damage to the land, Roman farmers could not replant or even fix the land.  Another issue was competing with slave labor that seemed impossible at the time.  For these reasons they were forced to sell their land to wealthy landowners and did one of two things: moved to the countryside to work or moved to the city and lived as "poor people."  Eventually the a third of the population of Rome was made up of slaves, while another quarter of it was poor. (3)

Civitello also provides her readers with information about the Roman government during the Republic, which was three-part.  The first part consisted of 300 senators that would serve for the rest of their life making laws.  The second part consisted of 2 "co-consuls" that commanded the army and administered the laws made by the senate.  The third and final part of the Roman government consisted of the court system.  The Republic ended with the murder of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BC, and consequently a Civil War followed that would last for 17 years. (4)

Augustus of Prima Porta.

The war ended when Caesar's adoptive son, Octavian (later renamed Augustus when he became emperor) defeated Mark Anthony and Cleopatra at a naval battle; the latter two committed suicide as a result.  When Octavian, now Augustus, took control of the Empire in 27 BC he became Rome's first  emperor.  Through his rule he created "Roman Peace," Pax Romana, that would last 213 years.  Not only did the Empire not have any enemies, but during this time it would also have colonies in three different continents. (5)

Unlike previous works I have looked at, Civitello actually distinguishes between upper-class and lover-class cuisine.  She states that only ten percent of Rome's population belonged in the upper-class and were referred to as patricians.  The main meals of the day for these people were breakfast and dinner.  Breakfast consisted of leftovers, specifically cheese, olives, and bread.  Lunch (prandia) was usually eaten at a bathhouse, if you were not invited to someone's home.  Dinner (cena) could either be eaten with family alone, or with guests (convivium).  During dinners the host-guest relationship was of great importance; the Romans called the host a hospes. (6)

Many mistaken the Roman convivium with the Greek symposium, but the two are quite different.  For instance, the Romans did not practice any religious rituals, the Greeks did.  Another difference is the type of meat they would eat; Romans ate pig, while Greeks ate lamb or mutton.  The Romans during dinner, not after; and Roman men and women ate together, where as women were not allowed in the Greek symposium. (7)

Roman convivium.

Dining Al Fresco was also an important part in Roman cuisine and culture.  Al fresco refers to dining in good weather that would usually take place in a garden.  These gardens could be ornamental for show, or food gardens for produce.  In these gardens the Romans also made sure that they grew certain plants in order to feed bees that would provide them with honey, a natural sweetener.  These plants included rosemary, thyme, and roses.  The gardens were decorated with urns, statues, dials, shrines, and altars.  Grapevines were a natural home to birds, but also provided the garden with shade.  Aqueducts were used to bring in water for fountains, pools, and ponds that housed fish and ducks. (8)

The next part Civitello discusses is the Roman cook Apicius and the first ever known cookbook.  Apicius' cookbook dates back to the 1st c. AD and is called De re coquinera ("cooking matters"); consists of ten chapters.  Eventually this book was translated into German and then English in 1936.  From these recipes it is evident that the Romans liked sauces and meats.  Common ingredients included black pepper, garum, olive oil, honey, vinegar, wine, cumin, rue, and coriander; garlic was not a part of upper-class cooking because it was known a seasoning of the poor. Vinegar was used specifically to add tang to recipes and was usually combined with honey or garum.  Oregano and mint were also mildly popular ingredients. (9)

Next, Civitello discusses lower-class cuisine, in which she refers to as street food.  Since the top ten percent of the population made up the upper-class, it would only seem reasonable that the lower-class was made up of the ninety percent of the population; these people were referred to as the plebeians.  Since they lived in small tenements there was no availability of space for a kitchen, thus they relied on street vendors.  Street vendors sold bread or grain pastes.  Bread could be leavened or unleavened, or made with poppy seeds, pepper, salt, cheese, and honey. (10)

Although the Byzantine Empire was more Greek than it was Roman, I found it interesting that the Byzantines helped preserve some Roman traditions.  While the Byzantine markets were full of foods that the Romans did not know of, the Byzantines managed to preserve garum which was eventually lost in the west.  The Byzantines also brought many eastern foods to the west like eggplant, melons, and oranges. (11)

But what about the New World? What did the Americas have to offer to the Old World?  Well for one, it was very difficult to try and convince people to eat foods that they were not familiar with from the New World; it actually took 300 YEARS for Europeans to accept New World foods.  As a way of introducing New World foods, Europeans tried to make connections.  For example, Columbus' son described cocoa beans as "special almonds"; the explorer Coronado called buffalo cows with horns; the potato was the earth apple; in Italy the tomato was the "golden apple" or pomodoro, because the tomatoes that were brought over were yellow.  Turkey, tobacco, and beans were three things that had little trouble being accepted in the Old World.  Turkey replaced birds like the swan and peacock; while beans were probably accepted because they resembled chickpeas and lentils. (12)

During the Renaissance, the Italians rediscovered anything and everything that had to do with Classical Greece and Rome.  They rediscovered Roman cuisine with the discovery of some of Apicius' writings in 1457. (13) I myself rediscovered Roman cuisine this week by making a Roman dish that was usually served as a dessert, but for some reason it reminded me of breakfast...details below!

Honey Frittata (from Apicius)

-4 eggs
-1 cup milk
-2 TBS olive oil
-3 TBS honey
-pepper (or poppy seeds) to taste

Mix the 4 eggs with the milk and oil until all three are diluted into one substance.  Take a shallow pan and add some oil to it.  Let the oil heat until it boils and then add the mixture.  Allow the mix to cook on one side, not two, and then flip onto a plate.  Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with pepper or poppy seeds. Serves up to four people! (14)

Top: eggs, milk, and oil before mixed.
Bottom: eggs, milk, and oil after mixed.

Mixture in the frying pan.

Final product, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with pepper.

While making this dessert, I realized how simple and easy it was.  The only thing I did not like was how my entire house smelled like fried oil after wards, but that went away quickly anyway.  I did not know what to expect when making the frittata, but once I poured it into the pan it automatically reminded me of an omelet...a very simple omelet anyway.  When the dessert was finished, I thought maybe I had over cooked it, but as I bit into it I realized that the burnt top made up for the under cooked bottom!  This dish reminded me more of breakfast than of dessert not only because of the eggs, but also because of the honey; it reminded me of maple syrup.

This blog may have come to an end, but my discussion of Roman gardens and cuisine has not! Next week I plan on finding more information on this topic and maybe looking at Medieval gardens and cuisine a bit more.  I am having some trouble expanding my knowledge on the topic, but hopefully I will find some new things to discuss and maybe I will make another Roman dish. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Inside The Roman Kitchen Continued

This week's blog will continue the discussion of Roman cuisine and some of the main sources that have helped us come about ancient Roman cuisine.  The work that I will draw from and refer to is A Taste of Ancient Rome by Ilaria Giacosa.  Giacosa does a good job by drawing from the works of various ancient Roman cooks who documented their work.  She also does a good job of talking about the different foods used in the kitchen, not only fruits and vegetables, but also cheeses and meats.  She briefly discusses the Roman banquet and how it was set up, but I will not go into too much detail about it seeing that I have already discussed it in previous blogs.  She then discusses the various parts of the Roman meal and what the main ingredients used in each part.  In these sections she also notes many Roman recipes.  

The first area I want to touch upon that is discussed in Giacosa's book is that of the use of ancient sources.  Since the Roman civilization lasted a little over a thousand years it is only natural to think that it would changed on multiple occasions; this change includes shifts in its cuisine.  The change, as noted by Giacosa, may have been due to a shift in the economy of the empire.  The empire started off small, poor, and limited agriculturally.  As the Romans expanded their empire, their resources also grew and diversified due to their connection to three different continents. (1)

The first author discussed, and that I have discussed in an earlier blog, is Cato.  The focus of Cato's work was agriculture around 180 BC.  The second author discussed is Columella whom I have also mentioned before.  Columella also wrote about agriculture, a couple hundred years after Cato, specifically 35-45 AD.  Both of these men provide readers with instructions for prepping simple foods, i.e., how to store and season olives, what to feed slaves that are working on a field.  They also discuss several recipes for grains, as well as tips for seasoning various cheeses and preserving fruits and veggies. (2)

Cato the Censor was a politician, but also a devoted farmer and fairly famous for this during the Roman Republic.  During his youth he worked on his parents farm and continued this as he grew older.  His famous writing is De agricultura which discusses how to manage an estate, types of slave work, what to feed slaves, and the different breads one could use during ritual sacrifices. (3)

Columella was a military man, a politician, and an agriculturalist.  He came from a wealthy Spanish family and eventually moved to Rome.  One area where Columella is known for is for being a part of a successful business selling plants.  The other area he is known for is his work De re rustica which was more complex than the work of Cato. It consisted of thirteen books each of which was based on a single subject.  De re rustica provided recipes on how to preserve fruits and vegetables, and instructions on how to prep wine, vinegar, and mustard among other things. (4)

Triclinium from A Taste of Rome by Ilaria Giacosa.

Apicius and Petronius are the third and fourth authors Giacosa discusses.  Most of our information on Roman cuisine comes from these two men.  Both men were of the upper class of Roman society.

Petronius wrote Cena Trimlchionis, a book that discusses the types of meals that were popular during the reign of Nero.

Apicius lived during the 1st c. AD and organized banquets as well as invented crazy dishes and sauces.  Some of the main ingredients in these crazy dishes were the used of flamingo and nightingale tongues, camel heels, and roasted ostrich.  This interested me because it shows how the Romans incorporated different resources from different areas of the empire in their cuisine.  Apicius was such a popular cook that other sources contemporary to his time and after him cited him.  For example, Pliny the Elder credited Apicius with the idea of force-feeding geese figs in order to enlarge their livers.  Apicius is also known for naming various dishes, some of which are the following: palina for egg-based dishes; concicia for bean or pea dishes; minutal for fricasee; ofellae for stew meat; and isicia for ground meat patties.  His legacy lived on after he died, so much so that 200 years after his death a good cook was referred to as an "Apicius".  Unfortunately his life ended in suicide after he lost all his wealth and could not handle life without it.  Eventually all of his recipes were integrated with other recipes, including Greek ones, and became known as De re coquinaria. (5)

Giacosa also mentions the poet Martial who gives us perspectives on the everyday life of Rome.  His following three works discuss food.  His Epigrams discusses meals and popular foods.  Xenia discusses the different foods Romans would traditionally exchange during the Saturnalia, the most important holiday of the year.  His Apophoreta discusses the mementos guests would receive from the hosts during a banquet.  Martial's works are good in discussing the types of foods the Romans ate, but also the types of rituals they partook in. (6)

The second area Giacosa discusses is the sources of food that the Romans used.  I appreciated that she made note that Roman food differs greatly from modern-day Italian food. She notes that the tomato and potato that are so popular in Italian cooking today, were non existent during the Republic.  They were only included in Italian cooking after the discovery of the Americas; other resources also introduced later were eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, corn, turkey, dates, and citrus.  Oranges for instance were introduced in the 10th c. in Sicily by the Arabs.  The lemon was from the Orient and was brought to Greece (and later Rome) by Alexander the Great (356-323 BC).  

A big part of Roman and Mediterranean cuisine was fish.  The abundance of fish of various types in the Mediterranean Sea caused the Romans to make it a big part of their diet.  Sea food included sardines, anchovies, tuna, scorpion fish, red mullet, lobster, squid, cuttlefish, and octopus.  In terms of meat the Romans ate cattle, pig, lamb, goat, chickens, geese, ducks, pigeons, doves, deer, and boars.  

Veggies were the most popular and most available of all foods.  They included asparagus, carrots, leaf cabbage, onions, leeks, squash, and cucumbers.  They could be eaten cooked or raw or incorporated into soups.  

Romans also enjoyed cheeses that were made from sheep or goat milk and served as the basic source of nutrition during the Republic.  Cheese was given to people as gifts and mixed with water and cracked wheat to create several delicious cakes.

Fruits were also a big part of the Roman diet and were usually eaten at the end of the meal just like they are today in Italy.  Among the most popular were pears, apples, pomegranates, quinces, plums, blackberries and mulberries.  The Romans also imported fruits like the apricot from Armenia, the peach from Persia, and dates from Palestine and Ethiopia.

Another important part of Roman cuisine was the use of grains to make soups, porridges,  bread, and cakes.  The nutritional value of these grains was far greater than that of grains today because they were not processed or refined.  The earliest grains used by Romans were barley, spelt, rye, oats, millet , and panicum.  Barley was the most important because it was used to feed Roman troops, while oats were used to only feed animals.

Rice was a luxury item brought over to the Roman Empire from India; its cultivation in Europe didn't begin until the 8th c.  Wheat was also widely cultivated in Rome and was used to make white bread, black bread, leavened bread, flat-bread, and was seasoned with poppy, anise, fennel, celery, and caraway seeds for flavor.   The Romans also used three different types of flour to back with: fine flour (siligo), intermediate type (simila), and whole-grain (cibarium).  Below is a map of all the food sources in ancient Rome. (7)

From A Taste of Rome by Ilaria Giacosa.

Due to this growing increase of resources from expansion, the Romans were able to set up food shops.  These food shops were highly relied on by those who were not able to grow their gardens or set up their own fields for cultivation.  These food shops then resulted in the creation of food markets.  One of the largest markets was the Market of Trajan which housed 150 shops on 6 different floors.  It was built during the reign of Trajan (98-117 AD) by the architect Apolodorus of Damascus. (8)

Giacosa's discussion of the Roman kitchen and banquet is nothing new from what I have discussed in earlier blogs.  The kitchen for an ordinary Roman family was small and not really considered kitchens because the homes were typically small.  Wealthier and bigger homes had what we today would consider "real kitchens."  These kitchens didn't have windows, contained a packed dirt floor, and didn't have an exhaust channel so smoke could escape, which resulted in many fires. (9)

Among the furnishings in these kitchens were the following: ovens for baking cakes and bread; a water basin; a couple of burners on top of a brick base; and a pantry and storage room to keep foods.  The burners were maintained by wood or charcoal, the latter of which produced less smoke.  Romans also had utensils which included wooden, metal, or bone knives, spoons, and spatulas, and whisks, sifters, skewers, grills, mortars, and pots. (10)

Hanging pots in a Roman kitchen from A Taste of Ancient Rome by Ilaria Giacosa.

In a triclinium the slaves did the cooking, while the upper class ate in a reclining position.  The slave not only prepared the food, but he or she also cleaned the table when everyone was done.  In terms of etiquette those eating were expected to eat a little at a time.  When dining, one was supposed to recline on his or her left arm and eat food with his or her right hand. (11)

My favorite part about Giacosa's work was her discussion of the different parts of the Roman dinner.  She gives detailed information about how they made sauces, and what were the most popular appetizers, main courses, and desserts.  I will talk about all except for main courses because in my next blog I will be making a Roman plate from one of those three choices.

The Romans LOVED to create sauces for their foods.  It was in many ways the most important part of the meal because it could easily change the taste of any food.  Sauces were made to accompany many foods, meat, fish, veggies, and eggs to name a few.  The basic ingredients for sauces included berries, spices, wine, fermented fish sauce (garum), olive oil, vinegar, water, dates, hazelnuts, walnuts, and starch.  Garum was perhaps the most common ingredient of all and it was something that the Romans borrowed from the Greeks.  Garum was actually popular throughout the Mediterranean in general, and this goes back to the fact that there was so much fish available.  The sale of garum was in large pre-packed amphoras, so we know it was a big business! (12)

Garum sauce 

Appetizers were important because they kicked off the meal.  The usual choices were seasoned eggs, egg-based dishes, veggies, salad, mushrooms, assorted shellfish, cheeses seasoned with herbs, olives, and sausages. The usual serving size for these appetizers was 2-3 people. (13)

Reading about the desserts was my favorite probably because I have a sweet tooth! Giacosa explains that the Romans either served sweets, fresh or dried fruits, salted focaccias (breads with different seasonings and herbs), and sometimes even sausages or cheese for dessert.  She pulls from the works of Cato and Apicius to give us some traditional Roman dessert recipes.  Cato's recipes are simple and were made to accommodate the farmer and his family.  The main ingredients in these recipes were flour, cheese, and honey.  Apicius' recipes were more sophisticated and thus required more ingredients. (14)

In my next blog I will start off my making one or two of the recipes mentioned in A Taste of Ancient Rome and then talking about them.  I really enjoyed Giacosa's work, but I would have loved if she would have provided pictures of some of the foods she discusses so that I would know what each dish is supposed to look like before I start cooking/baking it.  Other than that, I cannot wait to get "hands-on" this week!