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Byzantium

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  • Sara Orel
    It is only slightly later than this text, and we can use information from Constantine on... I will be teaching an interdisciplinary class in the autumn,
    Message 1 of 13 , Jul 2, 1999
      It is only slightly later than this text, and we can use information from
      Constantine on...
      I will be teaching an interdisciplinary class in the autumn, focusing on the
      history and culture of Istanbul. As part of this, we are going to be
      discussing daily life of those who don't necessarily show up in the
      historical records (the voiceless masses, if you will). One of the ways the
      profs who are team-teaching with me and I have considered approaching this
      is through food, and we would love to have any help you can give us.
      Specifically:

      What would an early Byzantine cook use for daily ingredients? Would it be
      the same material as in Rome? Specifically, I am interested if there would
      be any impact from the decay of the trade routes from the east -- The Silk
      Road was at its strongest a bit earlier, with the Han ruling the east and
      the Romans ruling the west end.

      Could you suggest any recipes that might be appropriate for undergraduate
      students to make to experience the late Roman/Byzantine palate -- something
      they might try, something that would not taste just like anything (we will
      be making baklava and Turkish coffee late in the semester)?

      We have a small class (14 students, with three of us team-teaching -- the
      next time we teach the class it will have 60!) so we can't do really
      expensive stuff, but with the small number we can afford some slightly more
      expensive ingredients.

      Thanks for your help.
      If you want to reply on list, others might be interested, but I would
      certainly be happy to receive answers off-list as well.

      Sara E. Orel, Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Art History
      Truman State University
      Kirksville, MO 63501
    • hrjones@xxxxxxxx.xxxxxxxx.xxxx
      ... It s more of another extrapolation point, but have you yet encountered Mark Grant s edition of Anthimus: De obseruatione ciborum (on the observance of
      Message 2 of 13 , Jul 2, 1999
        7On Fri, 2 Jul 1999, Sara Orel wrote:

        > It is only slightly later than this text, and we can use information from
        > Constantine on...
        > I will be teaching an interdisciplinary class in the autumn, focusing on the
        > history and culture of Istanbul. As part of this, we are going to be
        > discussing daily life of those who don't necessarily show up in the
        > historical records (the voiceless masses, if you will). One of the ways the
        > profs who are team-teaching with me and I have considered approaching this
        > is through food, and we would love to have any help you can give us.
        > Specifically:
        >
        > What would an early Byzantine cook use for daily ingredients? Would it be
        > the same material as in Rome? Specifically, I am interested if there would
        > be any impact from the decay of the trade routes from the east -- The Silk
        > Road was at its strongest a bit earlier, with the Han ruling the east and
        > the Romans ruling the west end.

        It's more of another extrapolation point, but have you yet encountered
        Mark Grant's edition of "Anthimus: De obseruatione ciborum (on the
        observance of foods)"? To quote the back blurb, "Anthimus was a Greek
        doctor condemned by the Emperor in Constantinople to a life of exile at
        the court of Theodoric the Ostrogoth ... at the beginning of the 6th
        century AD. In the course of his life in Ravenna, he was sent as
        ambassador to the King of the Franks and wrote ... a letter about foods --
        which were good for you, which bad, and sometimes, how to cook and serve
        them."

        The writer is clearly working from the viewpoint of his native cuisine
        (Byzantine) although he sometimes comments on foodstuffs or preparation
        methods of his target audience, especially when he finds them odd. The
        cuisine is clearly in the same general ballpark as that of Apicius, but
        with the added advantage that Anthimus is more forthcoming about amounts
        and methods. I've worked up a number of the recipes (enough for a whole
        dinner) and found them delicious. (They also caused me to add costmary to
        my herb garden, which is a bit hard to find at Safeway. :)

        I could post a couple sample recipes (with my interpretations) if you
        like.

        *********************************************************
        Heather Rose Jones hrjones@...
        **********************************************************
      • ChannonM@xxx.xxx
        In a message dated 7/2/99 11:18:31 AM Eastern Daylight Time, hrjones@socrates.berkeley.edu writes:
        Message 3 of 13 , Jul 2, 1999
          In a message dated 7/2/99 11:18:31 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
          hrjones@... writes:

          << I could post a couple sample recipes (with my interpretations) if you
          like. >>
          It would be a pleasure to see them!!!
          I must say the activity the last few days has been great, I've had so much
          going on that I'd forgotten the list. The bantor has been educating,
          refreshing and inspiring. Now all need to do is clear my plate and get back
          to some of my own recipes......

          Channon
        • Sara Orel
          Heather -- This book sounds great -- I ll see if we have it in our library. In the meantime, I would love to have your recipes! Sara Orel
          Message 4 of 13 , Jul 2, 1999
            Heather --
            This book sounds great -- I'll see if we have it in our library. In the
            meantime, I would love to have your recipes!

            Sara Orel
          • michel polfer
            mailto:Apicius-unsubscribe@ONElist.com
            Message 5 of 13 , Jul 2, 1999
            • Holliday, Rachel {DISC~Welwyn}
              Heather You made an offer regarding Byzantine recipes, if you wouldn t mind posting them I would be very grateful. Rachel I could post a couple sample recipes
              Message 6 of 13 , Jul 15, 1999
                Heather
                You made an offer regarding Byzantine recipes, if you wouldn't mind posting
                them I would be very grateful.
                Rachel

                I could post a couple sample recipes (with my interpretations) if you
                like.

                *********************************************************
                Heather Rose Jones hrjones@...
                **********************************************************
              • hrjones@xxxxxxxx.xxxxxxxx.xxxx
                ... I haven t forgotten -- I just didn t get to it before going out of town for a week. As soon as I surface for air again, I ll find the diskette with the
                Message 7 of 13 , Jul 19, 1999
                  On Thu, 15 Jul 1999, Holliday, Rachel {DISC~Welwyn} wrote:

                  > From: "Holliday, Rachel {DISC~Welwyn}" <RACHEL.HOLLIDAY@...>
                  >
                  > Heather
                  > You made an offer regarding Byzantine recipes, if you wouldn't mind posting
                  > them I would be very grateful.

                  I haven't forgotten -- I just didn't get to it before going out of town
                  for a week. As soon as I surface for air again, I'll find the diskette
                  with the file ....

                  *********************************************************
                  Heather Rose Jones hrjones@...
                  **********************************************************
                • hrjones@socrates.berkeley.edu
                  Here s the 6th c. Byzantine recipe I promised the group. I m working from: Anthimus. 1996. De Obseruatione Ciborum: On the Observance of Foods. Trans. and
                  Message 8 of 13 , Jul 20, 1999
                    Here's the 6th c. Byzantine recipe I promised the
                    group. I'm working from:

                    Anthimus. 1996. De Obseruatione Ciborum: On the
                    Observance of Foods. Trans. and ed. Mark Grant.
                    Prospect Books. ISBN 0907325-750

                    The original text and translation are taken from Grant
                    (typos are my own -- I haven't had a chance to
                    proofread yet). Following this are my working notes
                    and experiments.

                    Recipe #3. [beef with sweet-and-sour sauce]

                    de carnibus uero uaccinis uaporatis factis et in
                    sodinga coctis utendum, etiam et in iuscello, ut prius
                    exbromatas una unda mittas, et sic in nitida aqua
                    quantum ratio poscit coquantur, ut non addatur aqua, et
                    cum cocta fuerit caro, in uaso mittis acetum acerrimum
                    quantum mediam buculam, et mittis capita porrorum et
                    pulegii modicum, apii radices uel feniculi, et
                    coquantur in una hora, et sic addis mel quantum
                    medietatum de aceto uel quam quis delcedinem habere
                    uoluerit, et sic coquas lento foco agitando ipsam ollam
                    frequenter manibus, ut bene ius cum carne ipsa
                    temperetur, et sic teris: piperis grana L costum et
                    spicam nardi per singula quantum medietatem solidi, et
                    cariofili quantum pensat tremissis I. ista omnia simul
                    trita bene in mortario fictili addito uino modico, et
                    cum bene tribulatum fuerit, mittis in ollam et agitas
                    bene, ita ut antequam tollatur de foco, modicum sentiat
                    et remittat in ius uirtutem suam. ubi tamen fuerit mel
                    aut sapa uel caroenum, unum de ipsis, sicut superius
                    continetur, mittatur, et in buculari non coquatur, sed
                    in olla fictili meliorem saporem facit.

                    Beef which has been steamed can be used both roasted in
                    a dish and also braised in a sauce, provided that, as
                    soon as it begins to give off a smell, you put the meat
                    in some water. Boil it in as much fresh water as suits
                    the size of the portion of meat; you should not have to
                    add any more water during the boiling. When the meat
                    is cooked, put in a casserole about half a cup of sharp
                    vinegar, some leeks and a little pennyroyal, some
                    celery and fennel, and let these simmer for one hour.
                    Then add half the quantity of honey to vinegar, or as
                    much honey as you wish for sweetness. Cook over a low
                    heat, shaking the pot frequently with one's hands so
                    that the sauce coats the meat sufficiently. Then gring
                    the following: 50 peppercorns[*], 2 grammes each of
                    costmary and spikenard, and 1.5 grammes of cloves.
                    Carefully grind all these spices together in an
                    earethenware mortar with the addition of a little wine.
                    When well ground, add them to the casserole and stir
                    well, so that before they are taken from the heat, they
                    may warm up and release their flavour into the sauce.
                    Whenever you have a choice of honey or must reduced
                    either by a third or two-thirds, add one of these as
                    detailed above. Do not use a bronze pan, because the
                    sauce tastes better cooked in an earthenware casserole.

                    [*] Yes, it really says "50" ("L" in the Latin). I
                    can't help but believe this is an error. I have
                    consistantly interpreted it as "1" instead, which seems
                    a reasonable amount of spice.

                    =================================================

                    Interpretation in recipe format

                    1. Boil a piece of beef in water to cover.
                    2. Put the meat in a casserole.
                    3. Add a half cup [quantum mediam uculam] of vinegar
                    [acetum acerrimum].
                    4. Add:
                    leeks [capita porrorum]
                    a little pennyroyal [pulegii modicum]
                    celery [apii radices]
                    fennel [feniculi]
                    5. Let simmer one hour.
                    6. Add half as much honey [mel] as vinegar, or as you
                    wish.
                    7. Cook at a low heat, shaking the pan to coat the
                    meat.
                    8. In a mortar, with a little wine [vino] grind:
                    50 peppercorns [piperis grana L -- but see note
                    above]
                    2 grammes [per singulum quantum mediatatem solidi]
                    costmary [costum]
                    and spikenard [spicum nardi]
                    1.5 grammes cloves [cariofili quantum pensat
                    tremissis I]
                    9. Add this to the casserole just long enough to add
                    flavor.
                    10. There is no presentation information beyond
                    reference to "sauce" [ius].

                    =============================================

                    Interpretation #1

                    Methods as given above. The cooking was done in an
                    enamelled cast-iron skillet (covered).

                    Ingredients and amounts

                    1.5 lb. boneless beef check, cut in 3 pieces, approx.
                    1" thick

                    I skipped the pre-boiling stage, on the assumption that
                    this was required only for tougher cuts of meat than I
                    was using. The results seem to bear out this
                    interpretation.

                    1/2 c. cider vinegar
                    3 pencil-thin baby leeks, whites only
                    12 leaves fresh pennyroyal
                    2 T. shredded celery root (celeriac) -- the recipe has
                    "apii radices" which Grant translates "celery" but is
                    literally "roots of celery". I've assumed the literal
                    interpretation.
                    1 T. fresh fennel, shredded

                    Simmer 60 minutes.

                    1/4 c. honey

                    1 peppercorn (The literal quantity of 50 peppercorns is
                    simply absurd -- see note above. Both black pepper and
                    long pepper would have been known -- I used black.)
                    1 leaf fresh costmary
                    (spikenard was not available)
                    1 clove (The recipe calls for somewhat more, but the
                    listed amount seemed likely to overpower all the other
                    spices. I interpreted that amount as applying to a
                    somewhat older, attenuated product, and began with this
                    amount to be conservative.)
                    1 T. red wine as a grinding medium

                    The above ground in a mortar with the wine; the results
                    and the honey added to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes
                    while repeatedly turning the meat. Strain the sauce and
                    serve over the meat.

                    Results: The meat was a little dry, but that is to be
                    expected with the cooking method -- the original would
                    likely have used a fairly tough cut of older meat. The
                    sauce is delicious -- mostly sweet-and-sour but with a
                    complex spicing. The spices are definitely "there".
                    Next time, maybe go heavier on the volitile spices.

                    ===============================================

                    Interpretation #2 (trying for a more strongly flavored
                    sauce)

                    1.7 lb. boneless beef cross-rib roast, approximately 3
                    " thick (a single piece)

                    1/2 c. cider vinegar + 1/2 c. water (to cover the meat
                    better without adding more vinegar)
                    6 pencil-thin leeks (whites only) chopped finely
                    24 leaves fresh pennyroyal
                    1 T. grated celery root
                    2 leaf-stalks of fennel, chopped

                    (the liquid was almost gone after 1/2 hour of cooking,
                    so I added another 1/2 c. each vinegar and water)

                    1/4 c. honey

                    1 peppercorn
                    2 fresh costmary leaves
                    (no spikenard available)
                    1 clove
                    1 T. red wine

                    As before -- this time I reground the sauce in a mortar
                    before straining it over the sliced meat.

                    Results: The meat was cooked thoroughly (no pink) and
                    falls apart nicely but is not dry. The sauce is
                    noticably sharp -- too sharp, I'd say. The flavor may
                    be too strong. I'd like to see the same balance of
                    spices with half the vinegar. I can't detect any one
                    flavor predominting. The honey, however, is much less
                    noticable, which is nice. some aftertaste. Try
                    cutting down on the celeriac, but it's hard to tell
                    what would be best to alter.

                    ==========================================

                    Interpretation #3 -- Just for fun, as a beef jerky
                    marinade!

                    2 lb. London Broil, sliced thinly

                    marinade -- combine ingredients in a blender and puree:

                    5 pencil-thin leeks (whites only)
                    2 T. leaf-stalks of fennel
                    24 pennyroyal leaves
                    1 T. celery root, coarsely chopped
                    4 costmary leaves (this was late in the fall and the
                    leaves were getting old, so I used more)
                    pinch ground clove
                    pinch black pepper
                    1/4 c. honey
                    1/2 c. cider vinegar
                    1 c. red wine (as a carrier)

                    Blend, then put in a shallow container with the meat.
                    Refrigerate, stirring daily, for 5 days. Dry the jerky
                    in a drier or very slow oven.

                    Results: Absolutely delicious, if very different from
                    the usual expectation for jerky. Noticably vinegary.

                    =================================================

                    Overall analysis

                    I've done several more batches basically following
                    recipie #2 but backing off a little on the vinegar. It
                    seems to work better on a thicker piece of meat -- the
                    meat is moister, although the sauce doesn't penetrate
                    as much in cooking. When the sauce is pureed before
                    being strained for serving it has a much more syrupy
                    consistancy and covers the meat better. My overall goal
                    was for a sauce where no one flavor predominates but
                    where the spices are more noticable than the basic
                    honey-vinegar flavor. This goes very nicely with
                    Anthimus's recipie #71 (millet cooked in milk and
                    water).


                    *********************************************************
                    Heather Rose Jones hrjones@...
                    **********************************************************
                  • Sara Orel
                    Thank you Heather for the information on the recipe. I have not made ancient recipes before, although I have tried my hand at medieval things. Would an
                    Message 9 of 13 , Jul 20, 1999
                      Thank you Heather for the information on the recipe. I have not made
                      "ancient" recipes before, although I have tried my hand at medieval things.
                      Would an increase in black pepper be really overwhelming? Could it have
                      been a very badly written V in the original (obviously haven't gotten ahold
                      of the book yet)? But it sounds like a lovely thing. Will check out the
                      health food stores in Iowa (not particularly good in this part of Missouri)
                      for some of the herbs.
                      I am really enjoying this list.
                      Sara
                      (orel@...)
                    • hrjones@xxxxxxxx.xxxxxxxx.xxx
                      ... The book only has transcripts, and the editor/translator doesn t comment on this item. That suggests that he didn t consider it a questionable reading in
                      Message 10 of 13 , Jul 20, 1999
                        On Tue, 20 Jul 1999, Sara Orel wrote:

                        > From: Sara Orel <orel@...>
                        >
                        > Thank you Heather for the information on the recipe. I have not made
                        > "ancient" recipes before, although I have tried my hand at medieval things.
                        > Would an increase in black pepper be really overwhelming? Could it have
                        > been a very badly written V in the original (obviously haven't gotten ahold
                        > of the book yet)?

                        The book only has transcripts, and the editor/translator doesn't comment
                        on this item. That suggests that he didn't consider it a questionable
                        reading in the paleographical sense -- and I'm not at all sure that he's a
                        cook and would have questioned it from that angle. Fifty peppercorns would
                        come to, what, somewhere around two or three Tablespoons of pepper? Unless
                        it was incredibly adulterated (something that seems less likely in the
                        whole, rather than ground, spice) or incredibly stale (in which case,
                        which other of the ingredients can be expected to be stale?) this much
                        pepper would so badly overpower all the other flavorings that they might
                        as well be left out.

                        > But it sounds like a lovely thing. Will check out the
                        > health food stores in Iowa (not particularly good in this part of Missouri)
                        > for some of the herbs.

                        I had the good luck to find costmary at my local nursery shortly after
                        beginning to work from this book. Living in the SF Bay Area as I do, I
                        can have fresh herbs from my garden for about 10 months out of the year,
                        so I don't have to worry about tracking down a regular supplier. Needless
                        to say, if you're using dried, you'll need to play with the amounts a bit.

                        The recipe I posted is probably the most complicated one in the
                        collection. What makes it really fascinating -- particularly in contrast
                        with Apicius -- is the detailed instructions on amounts and cooking
                        methods (and reasons behind the cooking methods). I keep meaning to look
                        through Apicius for recipes that look like they might call for a similar
                        procedure and see if the one can shed light on the other.

                        My other recent cooking interest has been some ancient Mesopotamian
                        recipies (written in cuneiform on clay tablets). There, the problems in
                        interpretation are pretty much the opposite to Apicius: the cooking
                        methods are described in a fair amount of detail, but the identification
                        of the ingredients is often rather shaky. (The translator ends up
                        identifying things as "unidentified alinaceous plant", "non-liquid milk
                        product".)

                        *********************************************************
                        Heather Rose Jones hrjones@...
                        **********************************************************
                      • Caroline Butler
                        I m not sure that the L peppercorns is so much of a disaster, especially if they were coarsely crushed. Also, the staleness is an interesting idea - presumably
                        Message 11 of 13 , Jul 21, 1999
                          I'm not sure that the L peppercorns is so much of a disaster, especially
                          if they were coarsely crushed. Also, the staleness is an interesting idea
                          - presumably they'd have had quite an extended travelling period (as
                          opposed to herbs which would be fresh) - how airtight was storage?

                          Caroline Butler
                        • Frank Kohout
                          ... Can we be sure that they used the same sort of BLACK peppercorns that we do today? Could they have used GREEN peppercorns, which are not nearly as hot as
                          Message 12 of 13 , Jul 21, 1999
                            At 10:00 AM 7/21/99 +0100, Caroline Butler wrote:

                            >I'm not sure that the L peppercorns is so much of a disaster, especially
                            >if they were coarsely crushed. Also, the staleness is an interesting idea
                            ><snip>
                            Can we be sure that they used the same sort of BLACK peppercorns that we do
                            today? Could they have used GREEN peppercorns, which are not nearly as hot
                            as the black, even when finely ground. I suspect that 50 green peppercorns
                            in a 3-4? cups of liquid (water+honey+vinegar), spread over a *large* piece
                            of beef with several other herbs & spices, would not be overpowering.

                            BYE-Frank Kohout
                          • hrjones@xxxxxxxx.xxxxxxxx.xxxx
                            ... When determining what types of pepper would have been available and referred to as pipera , I relied on J. Innes Miller s The Spice Trade of the Roman
                            Message 13 of 13 , Jul 21, 1999
                              On Wed, 21 Jul 1999, Frank Kohout wrote:
                              > At 10:00 AM 7/21/99 +0100, Caroline Butler wrote:
                              >
                              > >I'm not sure that the L peppercorns is so much of a disaster, especially
                              > >if they were coarsely crushed. Also, the staleness is an interesting idea
                              > ><snip>
                              > Can we be sure that they used the same sort of BLACK peppercorns that we do
                              > today? Could they have used GREEN peppercorns, which are not nearly as hot
                              > as the black, even when finely ground. I suspect that 50 green peppercorns
                              > in a 3-4? cups of liquid (water+honey+vinegar), spread over a *large* piece
                              > of beef with several other herbs & spices, would not be overpowering.

                              When determining what types of pepper would have been available and
                              referred to as "pipera", I relied on J. Innes Miller's "The Spice Trade of
                              the Roman Empire" (Oxford University Press, 1969) as well as several other
                              more general books. I could find no mention of the availability of green
                              peppercorns -- pepper (both black and long) appears to have been imported
                              primarily from India, according to Miller.

                              *********************************************************
                              Heather Rose Jones hrjones@...
                              **********************************************************
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