Tasting Life Twice

Author Crystal King muses on life, history, writing and food.

Posts by Crystal King:

Sauce for mushrooms - An ancient Roman Recipe from Apicius

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Crystal King Oct 15, 2020 10:00:00 AM
Sauce for mushrooms - An ancient Roman Recipe from Apicius

This is one of the very first recipes that I made when I first started diving into the cookbook Apicius as part of my research for FEAST OF SORROW. It calls for caroneum which is a bit tricky to know exactly what it might have tasted like but it was a reduced grape syrup of some sort. I recommend that you substitute sapa (sometimes called saba) or vincotto, which are essentially just different names for grape must, and either would be delicious in this dish. They are easily acquired at specialty food shops or Amazon.com.

RECIPE: Buffalo Blue Cheese Sourdough Bread

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Crystal King Oct 13, 2020 8:00:00 AM
RECIPE: Buffalo Blue Cheese Sourdough Bread
So you probably know me as someone who loves historical food and recipes, but I love to bake and cook in general, and I'm lucky that I have a husband who also loves to cook. I tend to do most of the baking though, and oh do I love a good loaf of bread. I'm a bit late to the #covidcooking sourdough craze but better late than never, right? 

A Chat Between Historical Novelists Stephanie Storey and Crystal King

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Crystal King Apr 8, 2020 5:35:16 PM
A Chat Between Historical Novelists Stephanie Storey and Crystal King

This week marked the launch of Stephanie Storey's delightful new novel Raphael, Painter of Rome.  

I had the extreme pleasure of reading and blurbing this novel, and here is what I said: “A sumptuous, dazzling dive into the world of Italian Renaissance art through the eyes of one of its most celebrated artists. Raphael, Painter in Rome unfolds in unforgettable detail, with all the color and richness of the era: popes and princes, courtesans and cardinals, mystery and murder, ardor and art. The world of Raphael is one I wanted to linger in forever.” 

And it's SO true. It's told from the point of view of Raphael and I love how Stephanie gives this Renaissance figure such vibrancy and life. I keep thinking about this book, about the characters that Stephanie brought to life. 

Stephanie has a new video series she's starting up, in which she's interviewing a variety of authors. I was delighted to be one of her first! In this video we talk about watching Italy's struggle with coronavirus, about the splendor of Rome in the Renaissance, about food, about art, and about the the land that we love, il bel paese. I seriously could have kept talking with her for hours! 

The Best Sugar Cookies In the World

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Crystal King Mar 28, 2020 4:22:11 PM
The Best Sugar Cookies In the World

My grandfather, whom we called Papa, loved to bake. He loved to make cookies, pies, cakes. And he loved to send big huge care packages to us from four hundred miles away full of his favorite treats. My mother learned to make many of his favorites and passed them on to my sister and I. There are many that I love, but this particular recipe is the one I love the best. They are also some of the simplest cookies to make, with only a few ingredients. 

In Discussion: The Chef's Secret at the Toronto Public Library

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Crystal King Jan 19, 2020 12:55:50 PM
In Discussion: The Chef's Secret at the Toronto Public Library

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting celebrated Canadian author, Roberta Rich, author of the Midwife of Venice,  who interviewed me as part of the Toronto Library's Other Shelf at the Appel Salon series. Many years ago I used to work for company in Waterloo, ON and I would often stop in Toronto on my way there, but I hadn't been back in a long while. It was great fun to see Toronto again. I hadn't been inside the library though, and wow, what a beautiful space!  I loved talking with the audience there. Canada loves books--far more so than in the States and it was lovely to be among so many book lovers. 

An Interview with Crystal King on Off The Shelf

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Crystal King Nov 18, 2019 2:20:37 PM
An Interview with Crystal King on Off The Shelf

Last week I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Veronica Andrews from the long running community book program Off The Shelf. I learned that Veronica has interviewed some of the biggest selling authors over the last thirty years and that her first interviews were with Nancy Kerrigan and Barbara Bush! I loved hearing her crazy stories and was glad to have a chance to tell her about my own crazy story about my favorite Renaissance chef, Bartolomeo Scappi. I also read a small snippet from the book which includes a famous Renaissance author that most people in the world are familiar with.

Turkey with Pomegranate Sauce: A Renaissance Recipe

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Crystal King Nov 11, 2019 8:00:00 AM
Turkey with Pomegranate Sauce: A Renaissance Recipe
Turkey, a Delicacy 500 Years Ago

The first turkey recipes appear in the Italian cookbook in L'Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi (who happens to be the protagonist in my novel, The Chef's Secret). Turkeys found their way to Italy during the Renaissance, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the century that they were deemed suitable for eating. As you might know, turkeys are a bird native to the Americas and were prized by the ancient Aztecs and Native Americans alike. Christopher Columbus noted the bird when he first came to America, but it wasn't until around 1519 when Spanish and Italian explorers first brought turkeys to Europe. Initially they were regarded as a beautiful and strange oddity, and many nobles kept them as pets or gave them to others as extravagant gifts. They were loved for their unique look, with artists depicting them in sculpture and paintings. The sculpture you see here, by Italian sculptor Giambologna, is from 1560, of the prized pet of Cosimo di Medici. The Italians called them gallo d'India (or birds of India) because of general geographical confusion  by early explorers. Eventually, however, turkeys became even more loved for their delicious and unusual flavor.  

Tortellini with Peas

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Crystal King Oct 17, 2019 5:21:00 PM
Tortellini with Peas

One of my favorite things about writing THE CHEF'S SECRET was trying my hand at some of Bartolomeo Scappi's recipes. L’Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi includes some of the first recipes resembling what we know as pasta today, including stuffed pasta such as tortellini and tortelli. It was a fun challenge trying to figure out how to make this recipe, from Book II.252 of L’Opera, work. The dough, which is made with with sugar and rosewater but no oil, is a bit softer and more pliable than what is common today. The spices lend themselves well to the peas, however, and this makes a perfect spring dish. But if you are like me, and love peas any time of the year, by all means, go with the frozen peas. It's still a delightful and surprising dish!

Secret Code Writing in the Renaissance

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Crystal King May 7, 2019 5:10:00 AM
Secret Code Writing in the Renaissance

Early on when writing The Chef's Secret, I knew that I had two stories to tell, that of Bartolomeo Scappi in the past, and that of his nephew and apprentice, Giovanni, in the present. Giovanni came into possession of journals and letters which told him the big secrets of his uncle's past.