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Tasting The Past with Historian Sally Grainger

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. 

Cover of the Apicius Cookbook, which has a red tapestry square on it.

This book changed my life.  I realize that may seem melodramatic, but when I have to boil it all down, it's true. When I came across a line in historian Roy Strong's book about banquets, FEAST: A HISTORY OF GRAND EATING,  about Apicius and how he died, I knew I had to seek out the collection of recipes that bears the ancient Roman gourmand's name. There was one catch. 

I can't read Latin. 

They didn't offer Latin on the West coast where I grew up, so it wasn't even an option for me unlike many of my East coast peers. But, fortunately for me, an English translation of the recipe collection by British historians Sally Grainger and Christopher Grocock had come out just a couple years before. It's an academic text, so it carried a text book price tag (ouch!) but for a food history lover like me, it's worth every pretty penny. It fired my imagination, it made me try foods I would never have imagined trying (I do NOT like fish and yet every single recipe has garum in it!), and it helped me write my first novel. In turn, it enabled me to get others interested in this era in time and the food that has inspired cultures of the world for the last 2,000 years. 

So imagine my excitement when I heard that Sally Grainger is starting up a YouTube channel to cook some of these ancient recipes! With a cool outdoor kitchen! And dishes similar to what an ancient Roman might have used! The channel is just getting started but I have heard she has several videos in the works, so make sure you subscribe so you can see her latest recipe recreations. 

Here Sally is making a Pine Kernel (pine nuts to us Yankees) sauce:

And check out her Apicius cookbook which has recipes that you can make from home. 

If you want to try out a few other ancient Roman recreations, you can also download the companion cookbook to my novel about Apicius, FEAST OF SORROW