Tasting Life Twice

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

Posts about food:

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

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Crystal King Aug 25, 2018 12:02:00 PM
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:

An Italian Roundup for September

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Crystal King Sep 23, 2016 1:40:23 PM
An Italian Roundup for September

I'm a voracious consumer of information, especially about il mio posto preferito sulla terra (my favorite place on earth), Italia. Why not share all those fun tidbits with my readers? I'm going to start doing these roundups more often. We can dream about la bella vita together. 

I Did It! 52 Books in 2015: November - December

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Crystal King Jan 3, 2016 1:04:22 PM
I Did It! 52 Books in 2015: November - December

My 2015 New Year's Resolution of reading 52 books in 2015 is complete! I even did better than that and read a few more too.
60.  Slade House - David Mitchell  Ending the year with Slade House was a good decision. I slurped it up in about two nights of reading--it was that good. It's one of the most unusual ghost stories that I've read. Mitchell toys with point of view in the most artful of ways and his method of telling the story across the decades is equally masterful. I didn't find it to be a scary story, just one that kept me wondering what on earth might happen next.

52 books in 2015: A reading list for Jul-Oct

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Crystal King Nov 7, 2015 2:30:58 PM
52 books in 2015: A reading list for Jul-Oct

I have been rather remiss, I fear, in keeping my book list updated here on my blog. I've been reading far more than I had hoped, but certainly not as much as I would like. I am happy to have passed the 50 book barrier with more than a month to spare! Let's see if I can get close to 60 books this year. I'm confident I'll finish at least 2-3 more this month, and hopefully another 3-4 in December. October

Honey in Ancient Rome

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Crystal King Jul 2, 2015 7:09:20 AM
Honey in Ancient Rome

Back in 1987, archaeologists discovered a treasure trove in a floor drain of the Roman Forum. This "treasure" was 86 loose teeth, all intact but with cavities in various stages. Three decades later, they've finally determined that they were all extracted by a highly skilled dentist of the time.  Also of interest, up in England, researchers have pinpointed the advanced stages of dental decay in a young Roman toddler, to excessive consumption of honey.
Medicine was quite advanced in Ancient Greece and  Rome. Surgeons regularly practiced lobotomies, Caesarean sections (didn't you ever wonder where that name came from?) and amputations, and were the inventors of tools such as forceps, catheters, scalpels and bone drills. Along with all of this fancy "technology" the Romans also relied heavily on herbs and the beneficial properties of food. Pliny writes (in addition to telling us how bees manage their colonies) that honey is good for afflictions of the mouth, pneumonia, pleurisy and snake bites.

A Taste of the Renaissance in Boston

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Crystal King Feb 23, 2014 10:58:14 AM
A Taste of the Renaissance in Boston

On Friday night my husband and I had the immense pleasure of checking out a new restaurant in Boston, M.C. Spiedo, located in the Renaissance Hotel on the waterfront. The chefs are from Maine's famous Arrows and MC Perkins Cove, Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier (they're also Top Chef:Masters as well!). We're fairly big food nerds and love trying out new places, but when I heard about M.C. Spiedo's focus on Italian Renaissance inspired food, the excitement went to a new level. Here? In Boston? Someone creating the dishes from the era of Bartolomeo Scappi, the central character in my second book? How incredible is that?
Pretty damn incredible, let me tell you. The restaurant is modern, but everywhere you look there is a reminder of the past, from the big red bordello-style booths, to the large portraits hanging, to the fantastic bookplates from Scappi's L'Opera on the walls in the bathroom.

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.

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

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

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.

Palathai - Easy, Quick and Delicious Fig Cakes

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Crystal King Feb 19, 2013 7:25:18 PM
Palathai - Easy, Quick and Delicious Fig Cakes

This is, without a doubt, one of the easiest recipes you could ever try your hand at making. These cakes are still made in Egypt and Turkey, and have been around since early Greek and Roman times.  You can find similar fig cakes sold at cheese shops and Whole Foods for ridiculously astronomical prices for what they are.
A 10th century encyclopedia, the Suda Lexicon, chronicles the ancient recipe as:

Learning More About Renaissance Chef Bartolomeo Scappi

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Crystal King Feb 18, 2013 5:32:10 AM
Learning More About Renaissance Chef Bartolomeo Scappi

As readers of this blog already know, the novel I'm currently writing is about yet another cook, Bartolomeo Scappi, who was a Renaissance chef to several cardinals and Popes. The BBC has a great special called Carluccio & The Renaissance Cookbook which aired a few years back. You can check it out here though.


Fascinating! Looks like I'll have to go to Dumenza at some point to check out the Scappi menu at that restaurant! In the meantime, I'll definitely be trying that risotto and the mushroom tart!

Parthian Chicken

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Crystal King Feb 11, 2013 12:14:11 PM
Parthian Chicken

When researching my book, FEAST OF SORROW, one of the fun bits was trying out various ancient recipes. The book is about Apicius, a first century Roman whose name appears as the title of the oldest known cookbook. One of the recipes in Apicius is for Parthian chicken. Parthia was part of ancient Persia, now in a region of north-eastern Iran. Much to my delight, it turns out that the Parthians really knew how to make chicken. Hands down this is one of the best chicken dishes I've ever had. It's juicy and tender with a perfectly crispy crust. The original recipe calls for a spice called silphium (also called laser) which went extinct in the first century. Emperor Nero is rumored to have had the last sprig.  Asafoetida powder or resin, common to Middle Eastern cooking, is believed to be the closest approximation to the taste. If you can't find that, just substitute garlic.

Renaissance Pizza Delivery?

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Crystal King Jul 18, 2012 8:02:17 PM
Renaissance Pizza Delivery?

Over on Reddit, there was a recent tongue-in-cheek post about a painting (displayed below) about how pizza delivery began earlier than we think it did (and was much more classy than in the modern world). Because of the research I'm doing for my next novel, I was especially interested in the painting and wanted to know more about it.