Tasting Life Twice
Author Crystal King muses on life, history, writing and food.
When I was researching my novel, THE CHEF'S SECRET, I discovered that in the Renaissance, often a chef was as important to helping the ill and wounded as a physician might be. This is evident in Bartolomeo Scappi's 1570 cookbook, which has 218 recipes specific for the sick. These recipes include "prepared potions, broths, concentrates, pastes, barley dishes and many other preparations needed by the sick and convalescent. Interestingly enough, some of the most delicious recipes among the thousands in his cookbook appear in this section, especially sweet dishes.
This recipe for Crispy Golden Potatoes is part of the Book Club Cookbook Blends Bash. If you aren't familiar with The Book Club Cookbook's Book, Song and Movie Blends, you are in for a treat. Their spice blends are high quality and super punny too. They make great gifts for any book, movie or music lover.
This fantastic recipe is part of the Book Club Cookbook Blends Bash I jumped at the chance. If you aren't familiar with The Book Club Cookbook's Book, Song and Movie Blends, you are in for a treat. Their spice blends are high quality and super punny too. They make great gifts for any book, movie or music lover.
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.
Back in 1972 Italian singer Adriano Celentano was obsessed with America. So much so that he decided to write a song, but probably one of the most unusual songs ever recorded. According to 2012 NPR interview he said this of the song:
One of my most prized possessions is a book of ancient Roman recipes with the name Apicius emblazoned across the cover. My copy is well over a decade old and a bit dog-eared, full of little post-it notes. I've read it so many times I know exactly where to find specific recipes.
He led a life full of adventures in the mid 1600s, culminating in a role as the steward for the viceroy of Spain in Naples.
I warn you, this a long post, FULL of all sorts of recommendations--books, videos and music, recipes, self-care, virtual armchair traveling. So grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and dig in!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm thrilled to announce a few special gifty opportunities for you this November!
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!
It's my favorite time of the year! Well, almost. I know many of you are groaning when I say that, but I say, bring on the leaves! Bring on the sweater weather! Let us carve up some gourds!
Much of this article (written by me!), originally appeared on Let Them Read Books.