The planning has begun! For our tenth anniversary (and for research!!), my husband and I have decided that Italy is definitely in our future for a week or so in the spring. We'll spend some time in Rome for sure, because it is where our heart of hearts reside, but Florence is also on the agenda, with perhaps a stint in Siena for a night.
Tasting Life Twice
Author Crystal King muses on life, history, writing and food.
For the last four (nearly five?) years or so I've been meeting with my writing group, not quite like clockwork, but about every two weeks. The three of us have hacked and slashed and encouraged each other's novels from start to finish, and gone through query letters, agent pitches and publishing challenges during that time. And of course, best of all, we have become close and dear friends as part of the process, bolstering spirits as we deal with family, illness, relationships, weddings, work woes and the ilk. I will know Anjali and Jen until I'm quite old and wizened, I am convinced.
Awhile back I thought I read that Ursula K. LeGuin has been in a writing group for many many years (if I'm remembering right she talks about this in Steering the Craft). At the time I remembering thinking, wow, someone as accomplished as she is still meets with others to go over her work?! I was impressed, but at the time, I didn't really understand the power of having ongoing encouragement that comes from being part of a small group that truly cares about your work. It's invaluable. Because of my writing group I don't get lazy. I moved immediately from finished to researching my next book. I feel compelled to move on the next chapter. I get excited to turn in work for feedback. I get lost in the worlds of their books. In short, because of this group I am on the continuous hamster wheel of writing creativity and as those of you know, if you fall off, it's a massive PITA to jump back on.
Tomorrow I leave my husband and my kitty to hold down the fort while I head to BlogHer 2012 to check out the action. It's a business trip primarily; some of you may already know my full-time-awesome-paying-the-bills job is managing social media for Keurig, the leading single-brew coffee maker in the world. There will be some Keurig action at the Got Milk booth, so I'm heading down with one of my colleagues to say hi to the crew there.
I ran across this Seattle PI article this week, about a wonderful paper sculptor, Justin Rowe, and I had to share. As a bookseller, Rowe was looking for ways to decorate his window. And suddenly, an artist was born.
If not, now you can! This video was set about 200 years after my novel's central character lived, but it still gives a great flavor of what Rome would have been like in ancient times. While the Colosseum wasn't there, nor the Circus Maximus, most of the other major buildings were there in the time that Apicius lived. He would have walked on the stones of the Roman Forum, visited the Temple of Jupiter, looked up through the oculus of The Pantheon. Such power there is in history!
In my novel, one of the treats served up by Apicius to his guests (from De Re Coquinaria, Chapter IX, 396) is stuffed dormice. They were generally eaten as snacks and were a favorite at the tabernas and popinas (taverns and bars) but were also popular with the upper class. Nowadays the lucky little dormouse isn't eaten (although apparently they are still in Slovenia!) but way back then they were often stuffed, fried and eaten whole, bones and all. Below is the recipe found in the cookbook which bears Apicius' name.
A recent article on the Huffington Post dares to make a bold prediction when it comes to trends in baby names--that monikers from Ancient Rome will soon be popular. She cites the Roman names in the Hunger Games as proof of the new trend. She may be right in that regard. God knows how many Bellas and Edwards are in the world now than before Twilight became popular.
The readers of my manuscript draft were often thrown when they found that one of my characters was named "Melissa." They thought it was too modern, but I just chuckled. While it's not Roman, but Greek, it's a name that is several thousand years old. Angela, Amelia, Bryce (which was a Greek girl's name), Laura and Patricia are also ancient names.
No, this is not an X song! Instead I thought it was a good day to remind of you of a few writely events that had nothing to do with fireworks, baseball, or apple pie.
The last few days here in Boston have been fraught with rain and sudden, thunderous storms that crack the sky apart with brilliant lightning strikes. My husband and I were caught in one of the outbreaks on Saturday, after a matinee of The Avengers. Thankfully we were in the car before the rain hit but when it did, BOOM! It was crazy driving down Comm Ave and seeing long scars of light rip out of the sky right in front of you, to hit rods on top of buildings, or perhaps the Charles River along one of its curves.
Awhile back I posted on one of my blogs about Roman honey cakes, which were primarily used as sacrificial cakes, but versions may have also been used as a snack in the tabernas and popinas.
Sally Grainger is one of the most well-known food historians, especially when it comes to the recipe book that bears Apicius' name. She is also the co-author of The Classical Cookbook, and in that book there is a recipe for Libum, a classic ancient sacrificial cake, first mentioned in Cato's On Agriculture.