Writing a book set in Ancient Rome means that I have to work with a lot of names that are probably unfamiliar to people, such as Thrasius, Sotas, and Ruan. And, ironically, when I included ancient Roman names that have survived the centuries, such as the name Melissa, my readers told me that the name felt too out of place.
Posts about italian:
One of the most well-known Italian Christmas carols outside of the US is Caro Gesu Bambino which means "Dear Baby Jesus." It's a newer carol, dating to about 1960 and one of the earliest American-known singers to cover it was Frankie Avalon. The lyrics are here (Italian and English) if you are interested, and below, Italian treasure Andrea Bocelli does a beautiful version of the song. Buon Natale my friends! And Buone Feste to those of you who are celebrating other holidays. I wish the best for you and yours this season.
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.
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.
With all this talk of love, I have to begin by saying that in one's life there are always certain people who you feel proud to know, who you want all your other friends to meet, and who you wish could always come to every party. One of those people is Christopher Castellani, who I still thank the stars that I met many years past. Christopher is a rare soul, and the hundreds upon hundreds of people in the book industry that know him (he's a key driving force at the magnificent Grub Street writing center) are likely to tell you that.
I have grown to know Christopher more and more over the years but after our initial meeting, my first foray into understanding a little about him was by reading his first book, which still ranks among my most memorable reads in my life, "A Kiss From Maddelena." In it we meet the protagonist of all three of his books, Maddelena Grasso, a sweet, shy and beautiful woman who is swept away by the circumstances around her-- the ending of WWII and a father who wants to arrange her marriage, but not to the boy she loves. I can still picture Maddelena as a girl, flying through the town on her bicycle. I can feel the emotion of the clandestine moments with Vito, the boy who steals her heart. I can still remember the roller coaster of emotions that first book put me through.
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!
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.