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Cena Romana Lexintoniensis MMXII

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  • Justin Mansfield
    Iustinus gregalibus salutem plurimam dicit, My Cena Romana is tomorrow night. Wish me luck! Valete [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 24, 2012
      Iustinus gregalibus salutem plurimam dicit,

      My Cena Romana is tomorrow night. Wish me luck!


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Justin Mansfield
      Iustinus Apicianis salutem plurimam dicit! Well, I m back home from Lexington, and this year s Cena was a hit (more than one person, including one lurker on
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 2, 2012
        Iustinus Apicianis salutem plurimam dicit!

        Well, I'm back home from Lexington, and this year's Cena was a hit (more
        than one person, including one lurker on this list, claimed it was the best
        ever). Demetria nostra asked me to post a full report, and so I shall:

        First of all, some background: due to a bit of a miscommunication between
        me and Terentius, there was only one day the Cena could be held, and it was
        on the third night of the Conventiculum´┐Żnot much time to prepare!
        Fortunately, I had been hoping for an earlier night anyway, and had already
        managed to make my gustationes, and most of the drinks in advance. So
        things worked out. And really, it was nice to get the Cena out of the way,
        and not have to worry about it for the rest of the week!

        An unfortunate consequence of this confusion, though, was that Kevin could
        not provide us with bread this year (as he has done every time he could for
        the last several years). Terentius wants to arrange to set a date in
        advance next year to avoid the problems we had this year, and obviously
        this is a good idea.

        I can't give you an exact figure for how many diners came, but I know it
        was more than 38. A safe guess is low-to-mid forties, 43ish.

        I. POTIONES

        I made two kinds of conditum in advance, namely Apicius' "conditum
        paradoxum," and Aetius' "conditum for melancholics." Of course I've made
        paradoxum many times before, but I only first made the melancholic conditum
        last year (because last year I finally found a source for polypody). Last
        time I miscalculated the amount of honey and accidentally made it too
        sweet. This year was much better.

        The night of the dinner, I also made hydromelum, the apple-honey-water
        drink described in the Geoponica. The only other time I'd made this was for
        a small dinner at my apartment long, long ago (before I'd ever been to the
        conventiculum even)... since a couple of my guests that night were
        teetotalers I wanted a period drink that was non-alcoholic. Unfortunately,
        my guests said it was way too heavy to drink. Only recently I came to the
        realization that my problem was that I'd served it cold, so at the Cena I
        served it hot, and it was a hit. In total the guests drank approximately 7
        quarts (that is, about six-and-a-half liters) of the stuff.

        I also donated one of my bottles of Dog Fish Head's Ta Henket (
        is such a rarity, and such a valuable experiment, I bought four
        "fifth"-sized bottles, forgetting that beer doesn't keep well, and I rarely
        drink it. Of course by now it has likely already started to go, and
        Terentius (always a connoisseur of beer) said "gustavi, et cervisia non
        fuit!" ('I tried it, and it wasn't beer!'). Others who tried it were
        interested, but not enthralled.


        I made large quantities in advance of my two standbys: pseudo-Virgil's
        moretum, and Cato's epityrum (both in Sally's redaction). I may experiment
        with other epityra and moreta in the future, but I don't think it's a good
        idea to ever do a Cena Romana Lexintoniensis *without* the traditional
        ones: they tend to fairly overwhelmingly be listed among the diners'
        favorite items.

        New this year was the pickled purslane. I'd been experimenting with
        purslane for the last several weeks, as the local farmers' markets had been
        selling it. So I couldn't resist looking for a Roman recipe, and found
        Columella's De Re Rustica 12.13.2. It's a very simple recipe: dry the
        purslane, put salt in a pot, then purslane, then more salt, then vinegar. I
        "canned" this is a mason jar, and let it sit in the fridge for several
        days. When I opened it, I drained the vinegar (probably should have saved
        it for cooking!) then plated the pickled purslane. It was *very* sour, and
        pungent, with an almost fermented flavor. I rather liked it, but resisted
        nibbling on it: I had very little of it to go around. Granted, I figured
        the cenatores would not like it: it was so strong it had to be an acquired
        taste. Towards the end of the dinner I asked what people had thought of the
        purslane... I was shown the empty plate. Since there hadn't been a lot to
        begin with, so that didn't mean much. So I asked explicitly: was this good
        enough to make again, and in larger quantities next year. There was an
        overwhelming chorus of YES. Go figure. So, I can't wait to try making this


        For the main course I nearly invariably make Parthian Chicken (in Sally's
        original redaction), and a vegetarian lentil dish (the exact one varies
        from year to year). The one year I didn't make Parthian Chicken was a
        disaster... even though it wasn't strictly the fault of the dishes I did
        make, the experience has soured me to experimenting with other entrees. The
        parthian chicken went a little too quickly this year (too many diners, not
        enough effort to cut up the larger pieces), but otherwise it was just fine.

        As for the lentils, I made Galen's teutlophace ("lentils and beets") in
        Grant's redaction (the version with beet leaves, not beet roots). I am very
        fond of this dish, and I needed a lentil dish I could make quickly and
        easily. That went just fine, but was perhaps not my best rendition of this
        dish--the fluid didn't all cook off in time, so I had to serve it wetter
        than usual, and I think it was the only dish to have more than a pittance
        left over.

        Last year, due to the massive increase in guests, I also made Galen's
        chickpeas with cheese (Grant's redaction, but really it's so simple who
        needs a redaction?) This is REALLY easy to make, and is great trick to
        maximize the amount of food while minimizing the amount of effort. So I
        made that again this year and... well it was a little *too* successful.
        More than one diner specifically told me that next year I should make twice
        as much! Um... I'm not sure I have a pot that big!!


        For dessert I made Cato's puls Punica (which in recent years has become a
        standby), and the cherry preserves from the Geoponica (which I made a
        couple times last year).

        The puls punica was slightly different for a couple of reasons. First of
        all, when I went shopping I somehow found no ricotta, so I made it with
        mascarpone instead. Now, I've always wanted to try this (and manouri cheese
        too!), but have used ricotta just because it's cheaper. Mascarpone has a
        greater volume, though, and is wetter, so it needed to cook longer (and I
        didn't have time to do it as long as I would have liked). I also tried
        using two eggs this time, another experiment I've long wanted to do: first
        of all because the Roman pound is smaller than ours, so a larger egg is
        called for; and second of all because one egg seems pretty absurd compared
        to half-a-pound honey, one pound grain, and three pounds cheese. How did it
        come out? Very nicely, actually. The diners unanimously said this was
        better than previous year's puls, and I'm frankly still craving another

        The cherries were also slightly different this year: I finally managed to
        acquire the more authentic sour cherries (although only at the last
        minute!) When I made a test batch at home, it wasn't very good. But I now
        realize the problem was that I didn't let it sit long enough. The batch I
        served at the Cena had longer to marinate, and the sweet and sour flavors
        mixed more smoothly.This too was very well received (more than one request
        for the recipe), and many were convinced it was a new dish. (One diner
        confused it with the moretum, which boggled my mind until he mentioned he
        was color blind.)

        The Cena Romana is always a highlight of my year, but I admit it seems to
        have gone extra well this year. I'm already occupied with thoughts of next
        year's banquet, which will hopefully be at least as good, and twice as well
        planned ;)

        When I have a little more time, I'll try to post some photos.


        2012/7/24 Justin Mansfield <iustinus@...>

        > Iustinus gregalibus salutem plurimam dicit,
        > My Cena Romana is tomorrow night. Wish me luck!
        > Valete

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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