Tasting Life Twice

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

Posts by Crystal King:

Oldest European Medieval Recipes Found

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Crystal King Aug 8, 2013 6:54:33 PM
Oldest European Medieval Recipes Found

In early 2013 a Latin manuscript was discovered that contains some fascinating early medieval recipes. The manuscript dates from 1140 from the Durham Cathedral monastery in the UK.  The recipes are primarily medicinal in their variety, with the intent to heal the sick and infirm. These recipes are nearly 150 years older than other known medieval era recipes.
I wish I could find a bit more information but it doesn't seem that any individual recipe translations have yet been published. The researchers are apparently working on a book that will be titled "Zinzibar" which is the Latin word for ginger.

Close Your Eyes To Box More Clever

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Crystal King Jul 12, 2013 12:11:25 PM
Close Your Eyes To Box More Clever

In the last few years there have been a bevy of studies, articles and even video games thrown at the masses with the aim to help one's brain age well, to become more intelligent or to stave off dementia. The most common method of giving your brain a boost is to jolt one's self out of your routine. Drive a different way home from work. Sit in a different spot in class. Take the stairs if you commonly use the elevator. Basically, stop the routine and start doing something that makes you have to think a bit more. The trick I always seem to remember is to do something simple, like shower with your eyes closed. Try it--it's hard! And I recommend skipping using a razor if you opt to try.  Or try walking through your house with your eyes closed. You'll find that you second guess yourself, and that there is a bit of fear involved as well as some discovery. 
Over and over, this seems to help with cognitive processes, especially as you age. Companies have realized that they can monetize the idea of training your brain, leading to the rise of sites and apps like Lumosity, Braingle and FitBrains. Do these types of sites work? I think that the jury is still out on this, but on a minimum level, they do help with creativity.

A Writers' Retreat

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Crystal King Jun 24, 2013 4:37:57 PM
A Writers' Retreat

There is a formula for a perfect writer's retreat: a Maine beach house + two 1/2 days + a schedule + amazing writing partners = success. Actually, success = three chapters + a more fully fleshed out timeline + incredible momentum to keep going.
What it didn't yield for me and my three writing partners was a name. We've been meeting bi-weekly for five years and for those five years my husband says to me every other week, "are you meeting up with the Women?"  Which is a fairly terrible name, like a bad film remake or something. We tried. We consulted a worn 1884 copy of Clubs and Club Life of London (this is 1908 version if you are curious) which we found in a bookshelf full of ancient books and photo albums. We learned about the Beef-Steak Society, the Blue Stocking Club and the Boodles, but alas, it didn't give us ideas. We dug through Roget's 1911 Thesaurus, which we all agreed is a writer's best friend (we also shared fond stories of our own dog-eared copies we used as kids before traditional thesaurus' really became popular). Nada. We are still Nameless.

My Favorite Books of 2013 So Far

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Crystal King May 13, 2013 6:00:20 AM
My Favorite Books of 2013 So Far

This weekend,  at my fave cocktail bar, Clio, while sipping on Manhattans and rummy drinks called The Sanchez, I got into a conversation with some friends about books. I promised some of my all around historical fiction recommends to them, but I realized that I've read a lot of great books this year that I want to tell others about. And I have a book pile a mile long after the recent Grub Street Muse and the Marketplace conference. I'd love opinions on which one to read first!
This list of 2013 is in no particular order...it would be too hard to do!

The Muse and the Marketplace - Two M's that Writers Rely on For Their Craft

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Crystal King Apr 30, 2013 9:43:23 AM
The Muse and the Marketplace - Two M's that Writers Rely on For Their Craft

I've been a bit sparse in my posts lately because my time has not been my own! But it's all good and the world of writing, of ancient Rome, of Renaissance Italy and all that goodness has been swirling around in my head in grand incubation mode. It's the Muse at work, I think.

Learning a Language - Can You Use That Word in a Sentence?

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Crystal King Apr 1, 2013 8:26:14 PM
Learning a Language - Can You Use That Word in a Sentence?

One of the challenges of learning a language is understanding how to best use all the vocabulary terms that you are learning. It's one thing to learn a word, but quite another to know how to employ that word in a sentence.
I think this is one of the most challenging things for me when I am trying to learn on my own, without my tutors available. Take the word impiegare, for example. It means to employ, to engage or to use. But I'm not entirely sure how it's used in a sentence and when I turn to various resources I get conflicting answers.

Chuck Palahniuk at the Muse and the Marketplace 2011

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Crystal King Mar 30, 2013 9:58:26 AM
Chuck Palahniuk at the Muse and the Marketplace 2011

We're coming up on the next Grub Street Muse and the Marketplace and I couldn't be more excited! I have a session on social media at the conference, but I will also be there as a writer, participating in the Manuscript Marts (I'm meeting with two agents this year, more on that in a future blog post), and attending classes. This year's keynotes include James Wood and Amanda Palmer.  It's the first year that the Muse has had two keynotes (one on the Muse, one on the Marketplace) so that should be interesting!
James and Amanda will have their work cut out for them though, to top this amazing keynote by Chuck Palahniuk  (author of Fight Club) two years ago. Absolutely brilliant. And while it's long, it's definitely worth watching in its entirety. I still have chills thinking about it. He's an absolutely masterful storyteller.

Dante and Roberto Benigni - Tutto Dante

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Crystal King Mar 29, 2013 7:58:01 AM
Dante and Roberto Benigni - Tutto Dante

As someone learning Italian, I feel especially fortunate that I live in a city that lets me pick up at least one Italian channel on cable. In this case it's RAI, but not the channels you would see in Italy. Instead it's a sanitized, washed out version for Italian audiences, mostly consisting of Italian game shows, soap operas, calcio (soccer/football depending on where you live), funny variety music shows and a smattering of news. Every once in awhile there is a gem, though, like the show Il Provo Del Cuoco, which is a cooking/cook-off show.

Adorable Italian Ad: Armando's Dream

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Crystal King Mar 24, 2013 8:06:52 PM
Adorable Italian Ad: Armando's Dream

I stumbled across this fantastic advertisement for Grano Armando pasta and I had to share. It's an adorable, beautiful mini-film of sorts, about a young Italian boy with a special dream. The cinematography is wonderful and I love the characters in the film. I think it does the trick--if I saw Grano Armando pasta, I think I'd be pretty inclined to think about buying it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfLzvxnazsA

Learning Italian - La Bella Lingua

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Crystal King Mar 19, 2013 6:19:26 AM
Learning Italian - La Bella Lingua

Learning Italian isn't something that I decided to do when I was young, but I wish I had! Instead, when I was in high school, many many years ago, I thought it would be great to learn French. Other kids in the high school in Boise, Idaho were learning Spanish, or perhaps German. I don't even recall if they offered other languages at my school at the time. French seemed elegant, refined, literary and Spanish, while beautiful and I can appreciate it more now, seemed oh so utilitarian back then. Boring.
I was never overly dedicated to the learning the language, but I did ok. The problem was that coming from a family with no money and no passports, the thought of going to France seemed like such a pipe dream (I"ve still not been!). And living in Boise there wasn't a soul with whom I could practice. Still, I persisted even into college, minoring in the language.

A New Fragrance Trend? Smelling Like Old Books & Dead Authors

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Crystal King Mar 17, 2013 5:20:39 AM
A New Fragrance Trend? Smelling Like Old Books & Dead Authors

Last year, Karl Lagerfeld, an avid book lover and collector himself, worked with Steidl books to create a fragrance called Paper Passion that supposedly smells just like old books.
And who doesn't love the smell of books?! Well, ok, maybe my husband might not want me smelling like a musty library but I find something terribly romantic about the idea!

White Smoke and a New Pope

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Crystal King Mar 14, 2013 5:25:58 AM
White Smoke and a New Pope


Unless you've been living under a rock, they chose a new Pope yesterday, Pope Francis I.  I watched this particular conclave with interest, not because I'm Catholic, but because the book I'm currently writing takes place in Renaissance Italy, about a cook who was responsible for feeding several conclaves that had to choose a Pope.  I wrote more about that in a previous blog post.

The Fringe Benefits of Failure

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Crystal King Mar 9, 2013 4:09:45 AM
The Fringe Benefits of Failure

To follow up on yesterday's rejection post, I thought I'd share some wonderful inspiration from one of the most successful writers ever -- J.K. Rowling, giving a commencement speech at Harvard in 2010 on the benefits of failure.
Some of the truest words she speaks: "One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality."

On Writing: The Power of Rejection

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Crystal King Mar 8, 2013 5:30:36 AM
On Writing: The Power of Rejection

As you may know from either reading my blog, following me on social or being one of my friends and acquaintances, I'm currently seeking representation for my novel, FEAST OF SORROW. The novel, set in ancient Rome, is about Marcus Gavius Apicius (hear the pronunciation here) , the man with his name on the oldest known cookbook. The story, told through the eyes of the cook that makes him famous, is a turbulent and tragic story of a family in peril as a result of Apicius' ever-growing ego. It's a story full of luxurious food, drama, violence and political intrigue.
The novel is historical fiction, but because of the time period in which it is set, it's essentially genre fiction, that of ancient Rome. Many of the novels set in ancient Rome tend to be mysteries, which my book is not.  Lindsey Davis, Steven Saylor, David Wishart and Robert Harris (all fantastic authors!) come to mind.  Other books in the genre tend to be very heavy on the war and/or politics, including a few stand alone novels by some of the previously named authors, but also by others such as Colleen McCullough, Michael Curtis Ford, or Allan Massie.

Glykinai - Sweet Wine Cakes (Crackers)

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Crystal King Mar 6, 2013 1:13:36 PM
Glykinai - Sweet Wine Cakes (Crackers)

This is an ancient cracker recipe from Athenaeus, a rhetorician and grammarian who lived in Rome in the 3rd century AD. This recipe is a delightful, snacky interpretation of a cracker that was most likely served at taverns in ancient Greece and Rome. The original recipe doesn't give us much direction, but they were likely somewhat similar to the recipe below.
Glykinai: "The cakes from Crete made with sweet wine and olive oil.”  - Athenaeus in The Deipnosophistae

How Many Writing Rules Do We Need?

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Crystal King Mar 4, 2013 6:25:27 AM
How Many Writing Rules Do We Need?

Holy writing rules!  There are so many out there that it's hard to know where to start!  I compiled the quotes that I have run across over the last few months and pulled out the ones that really spoke to me.  The Zadie Smith quote in particular is key for me. I need to eliminate all distractions!  Click on the headline to go to the article for all the rules by that author.
George Orwell's 5 Writing Rules 

The Renaissance Papal Conclave: What Did They Eat?

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Crystal King Mar 1, 2013 4:30:08 AM
The Renaissance Papal Conclave: What Did They Eat?


The last month has been a month of massive tumult for the Catholic Church. For the first time in 400 years a Pope is resigning. There have only been five Popes to resign and all of them resigned under great duress, or in the case of Gregory XII, he did it to end the Western Schism. This is the first Pope to cite "health" problems as a reason to resign and the first to revise rules regarding the convening of the Papal conclave so that it can be convened sooner than in the past (usually they have to wait 15 days).  I have a bunch of my own speculations about that, but there are a million other places that the woes of the Church can be debated.