Tasting Life Twice

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

Posts by Crystal King:

Renaissance Style Sweet Potatoes

Renaissance Style Sweet Potatoes

Every holiday season, the humble sweet potato transforms into a delicious side dish, sometimes simple, sometimes decadent. The sweet potato (which is different than a yam, sorry Louisiana) is a tuber native to South America but it found its way to Europe and parts East once the New World explorations began. Gerard Paul, over at the fantastic site, ManyEats, has a fascinating history of the sweet potato here.

An Interview with Crystal King on Off The Shelf

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

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

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

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. 

Now On YouTube!

Now On YouTube!

In addition to writing novels, I also work as a social media professor for a marketing technology company, HubSpot. My entire site is built on HubSpot, actually, and I manage my mailing list and social media through the platform (although, note that for the average author it probably isn't the right choice price-wise, as it's meant for businesses...it's a lucky perk of being an employee). 

Pumpkin Tourte ~ A Delicious Renaissance Cheesecake Pie Recipe

Pumpkin Tourte ~ A Delicious Renaissance Cheesecake Pie Recipe

It's #NationalPieDay!! So of course I had to share one of my favorite Renaissance recipes, one for a pumpkin tourte. 

Pumpkin pie in the Renaissance? I hear you say. Isn't that a food from North America? Why yes, but let me explain. In renowned chef  Bartolomeo Scappi's 1570 cookbook, he describes a pie which includes a recipe for a gourd that translates as the word "pumpkin." Now, the word for "pumpkin" has been used on a variety of gourds throughout the centuries, dating back to ancient times. It's possible that the pie he describes was actually a squash pie, but with the influx of foods from the new world (Scappi also includes some of the first European recipes for turkey in his book), I like to think that perhaps the pumpkin that we know and love today might have been what Scappi was using when he created this recipe. 

Scappi's Braised Beef - An Interpretation of a Renaissance Recipe

Scappi's Braised Beef - An Interpretation of a Renaissance Recipe

Renaissance chef (and character in my second novel), Bartolomeo Scappi, wrote a cookbook that was released in 1570 and was one of the most reprinted cookbooks over the next two hundred years. One of the most wonderful things about his cookbook, The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, is that it is still very accessible today. There are exceptions, for example, modern audiences would not be interested in some of the meats (hedgehog or blackbird anyone?), and many of the items are not readily available or, like his feathered peacock, are too elaborate too make.

Fortunately, many of his recipes are are still pretty easy to figure out. Like this one for braised beef: