Thursday, February 1, 2018

Feast of Sorrow Round-Up

Welcome to the current round-up!  For the past two months our members have trekked back to ancient Rome with Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King.  King's tale follows the life of Thrasius, a culinary-gifted slave purchased by Apicius, a Roman patriarch that is obsessed to be named the culinary adviser to Caesar.   There is more than a plethora of food in the novel, everything from fried flamingo tongues to stuffed dormice.  As Thrasius creates and develops delicacies for his master's table, there is also more than enough cruelty as slaves are condemned to unspeakable atrocities. You can read the announcement post here.  

It seems like the readership loved this book which is always a relief to the host of each round.   (Thanks, all!)  There has also been a great deal of discussion as to whom would play Apicius in the film version of this novel.   (I believe the topic got started by Tina .)   So, before we begin the round-up of Roman inspired dishes, let's pause for a Gerard Butler moment.
Gerard as Aspicius?  Casting is calling.
Tina was so excited about Gerard as Apicius, she was the first one to post up with a Roman-inspired feast.  Her take on the book was similar to mine:
The treason and infidelities committed in this book makes for a good plot.  I was simultaneously fascinated and saddened to see innocents drawn in, suffering undeserved consequences. The ending chapters were indeed horrifying but I can’t give away the plot.  It all comes together and I could have read more.
A feast fit for Apicius!

Wendy, from A Day in the Life of the Farm, listened to the audio book narrated by Simon Vance.  She was inspired by one of the first food items mentioned in the novel:

Thrasius, previously owned by a cruel taskmaster who didn't hesitate to beat him and use him for his sexual deviancy, wants very badly to impress and please Apicius.  The very first meal he serves him is Ham in Pastry.
Wendy enjoyed the novel and enjoyed this dish.  In fact she writes, "It was delicious and I'm sure Apicius would have allowed me to live one more day......."   Indeed, I am sure of that as well, Wendy.

Amy was thinking similarly to Wendy and was inspired by the same reference in the novel.  
There was no shortage of foodie inspiration from this novel.  The story follows Thrasius, the new coquus (head chef) of Marcus Apicius’ kitchen, the food descriptions frequent and mouthwatering.... My inspiration for today’s recipe showed up on the second page of the book!  The idea took root and I just had to go for it!  In the book, the dish is described as “…ham in pastry, with honey and figs…”
Her Ham & Swiss Stuffed Piglet Buns are beyond cute and creative!

Culinary Adventures with Camilla was next up.  Cam posted her take on another ancient Roman favorite Parthian Chicken.   She adapted the recipe for game hens.  
Camilla commented on the research and authenticity of King's book.  (Camilla studied Latin and lived in Rome after college.)  I think she also summarizes the crux of the book well.
Some of the earliest foodies, it turns out, wrested credit for the work of the talented cooks they enslaved. This is a story where innovation collides with exploitation, loyalty with rivalry, and love with venomous hatred. I highly recommend this for any fan of historical fiction, anyone who loves Rome, and anyone who enjoys feasts and foods. I found it impossible to put down. Twice.
Cook the Books co-host, Claudia, cooked up an authentic Roman feast.  She found it hard to narrow down what to make from the lengthy list of food in the novel.  
I wanted to make a simple Roman style meal.  No stuffed dormice or crispy, fried flamingo tongues.  Something ordinary people would sit (lie) down for.  Not having a troop of kitchen slaves to assist, and without some rare or hard to find ingredients, we must rely on approximations and shortcuts occasionally.
Quite the feast!

Cathleen from Delaware Girl Eats connected the most with Thrasius:
He was both a slave and cook extraordinaire, often preparing meals for visiting dignitaries on behalf of his owner Apicius, who passed them off as his own. In one passage from the book he reflected on a fine meal that another prepared, “For the first time in many weeks there were no guests at cena (funny how the word cena still signifies dinner in the Italian vocabulary). I was pleased as the quiet family meals were the ones I tended to enjoy best. Timon made our favorite dishes, which were always the ones that were most simple. That night it was fig cakes, sweet wine biscuits, Persian lamb, chicken and almond meatballs with soft plaited bread made from olive oil and goat milk.”
She went outside of her comfort zone having never made Persian dishes or cooking with lamb.  Here's her Persian Lamb with Couscous.
She writes that if you can manage the array of spices in this dish, it's a simple dish.  Love your presentation, Cathleen.

Lynda from Reviews, Chews & How-Tos read the book while trekking through Germany, including the Roman city of Trie.  I loved reading her thought process of trying to do a Roman recipe while going Whole30!
First, I had to make it Whole30 compliant, and then I had to make it 'Roman'.  (By the way, faux-foods would have totally appealed to Crystal King's Apicius, I think!  So a faux-Spanish recipe going faux-Roman? Served with faux-pasta?  On it!) 
My modifications involved switching the wine for wine vinegar, getting rid of the brown sugar entirely, and switching out the prunes for dried dates (why? Because I have dates in the house, love them, and dates and figs feel more Roman to me).  Finally, in an homage to the never-ending fish sauce, which seemed to go into everything, I added a bit of Red Boat fish sauce, too.
Her Chicken Apicius (Whole30) was so good it has found it's way into her regular recipe rotation.

Simona, another co-host,  enjoyed the historical aspect of the novel.  
The novel weaves together the lives of the individual characters with ancient Rome's life, politics and cuisine. A couple of novels I read some years ago prompted me to delve into the subject of Roman recipes for which De Re Coquinaria(a.k.a., Apicius) were the source1. This is not the right venue for a detailed discussions of the relationship between Marcus Gavius Apicius and De Re Coquinaria. The latter is a great source and I consulted it again to find a recipe to go with our book selection.

She delved deep in to ancient Roman recipes and pulled an authentic dish from De Re Coquinaria.  

Her Braised Celery and Leeks can be turned into a meal with the addition of some beans.  I love the versatility of this dish.

I made two dishes for this round.   I first baked Libum (honey cakes).  I got a bit bogged down with the atrocities depicted in the novel and wanted to make something that a slave would have had access to, a simple dish that was used for sacrifice to the gods.   (I used a mixture of recipes found on King's website.)
Because the novel is also about triumph despite overwhelming odds, I was inspired by one of Thrasius' dishes, stuffed beet leaves.  I created a recipe using the flavors of his dish and threw in some farro because it's an "ancient" grain that he probably had as well.   Here's my Beet and Leek Farro Salad with Spiced Vinaigrette.

As the host of this round, I am ecstatic that everyone enjoyed (or loved) Feast of Sorrow.  Like the rest of you, I am looking forward to the February/March round with The Discovery of Chocolate by James Runcie (hosted by Simona at bricriole).  

Look for her announcement post here soon.

You might have noticed that we're missing a co-host this round.  Deb from Kahakai Kitchen regretfully had to sit this one out.  Please send good thoughts her way.   Get well soon, Deb!  


Terri from Our Good Life recently reached out to me stating that through some sort of miscommunication, she missed her recipe being highlighted here.  I definitely wanted to resolve the situation and make sure we all got a glimpse of her inspired-by recipe.  Terri writes:
Like everyone else has stated, this book is FULL of food scenes. I am drooling every time I read this. However, these are foods that most of us haven't heard of, with spices and herbs I am unfamiliar with. That's how good this author is at description. My inspiration is coming with more of the plating ideas than of actual cooking. As I continued reading, though, I noticed how many times the guests were treated to honey water and honey cakes. Over and over. I decided I wanted to give a honey cake a try. I researched ancient recipes for honey cakes and I actually found a few recipes. I decided to give this one by King Arthur's Flour a try.
Here's her take on a honey of a honey cake.

Please reach out and show her some CtB love.


Simona Carini said...

What a feast indeed (without the sorrow ;) Thank you so much for the intriguing read and the lovely roundup.

Tina said...

What a roundup! I loved the book, as you know, and having Gerard appear as a possible Apicus made my day, LOL. I'm going to go off and visit all the other yummy posts now. Thanks for hosting, this was a blast. #TeamGerard #booklove

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

Thanks so much for hosting and for choosing this novel.

Claudia said...

Great roundup and thanks for hosting! I enjoyed this one.

Delaware Girl Eats said...

This was an interesting choice but fascinating. Thanks for the round-up and for hosting

Terri Steffes said...

Shoot! I guess I forgot to tell someone I had participated. Here is my post, just for kicks and grins: