Posts Tagged 'Rome'

Re-creating a Roman Feast

On Tuesday, December 11, archaeologist and food writer Farrell Monaco will be here for a talk and feast exploring ancient Roman cuisine. Monaco is the author of a celebrated food blog, Tavola Mediterranea, in which she explores recipes from across the Mediterranean and even re-creates recipes from the archaeological record.

In what has become a tradition for the Adult Programs team whenever we have a program about food, we tried our hand at making a few of the recipes featured in Tavola Mediterranea. You can find our other cooking attempts here, here, here, and here.

Katie Cooke, Manager of Adult Programs
When scrolling through the blog, the Libum caught my eye. I think because of a distant memory about the sweet bread that the Romans ate, from my days learning Latin. I also thought that the idea of an ancient cheesecake drizzled with honey couldn’t be that bad, even with my amateur baking skills.

The ingredients list could not have been easier to assemble. The base for the bread was only three things: eggs, flour, and ricotta. I had Great British Bake Off in the background, so I was reminded to let it proof and not knead it into a stiff mass.

While the dough was resting, I arranged the bay leaves on the bottom of the pans so that the bread would sit on them and soak up all the delicious, savory flavor.

I split the dough between two pans as the recipe says, and it’s a good thing Farrell specified that, because the baking time is already an hour—I would’ve been up very late if all that dough was baked in one loaf! The fun part was decorating the tops with pine nuts.

The finished product was very nicely browned loaves of dense cake/bread. I drizzled them with honey and then used some for dipping. I would recommend keeping a lot of honey on the side when eating this. I thought that the bay leaves were going to give it a little more flavor, but overall the taste of the bread is very neutral.

What I learned: If I were part of an ancient civilization, I would have worshiped honey because it makes even the simplest of breads sugary and delectable.

Jessie Carrillo, Manager of Adult Programs
From the moment I saw Vatia’s Fig-Stuffed Pastry Piglets, I knew I had to make them. While not directly drawn from an ancient source, this dish is not too far off from something that the Romans would have eaten, and the combination of ingredients sounded tasty.

I started by making a dough from whole wheat flour, olive oil, and water. While the dough rested in the fridge, I sliced two portions of pork tenderloin, pounded them with a meat mallet until they were very thin, and seasoned them.

Next I combined dried figs with salt, pepper, and honey in a food processor, spread the mixture on the pork pieces, and then rolled them up like a couple of Ho Hos®. I rolled out my dough until it was about the thickness of a pie crust and cut pieces large enough to wrap around the pork, as well as some smaller pieces that I fashioned into my piglets’ ears, noses, and tails.

After wrapping each piece of pork in pastry and decorating the piglets, I followed the author’s advice and threw them into the oven without naming them. After about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, the piglets came out sadly missing their tails, but otherwise adorable and surprisingly yummy!

What I learned: Meat wrapped in pastry dough has always been delicious, and cooking is even more fun when you combine it with sculpture.

Stacey Lizotte, DMA League Director of Adult Programs
I decided to make Apicius’ Tiropatina (Tiropatinam), which is an egg custard, because it only had three ingredients (six if you count the garnishes), and because I was curious about what flavor and texture you would get in a custard from just eggs, milk, and honey (instead of sugar).

You would think three ingredients would make this a simple recipe, but it was VERY time consuming—literally a two-day process (so if patience is not a virtue of yours, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe).

Once the three ingredients were combined, there was a lot of custard mixture—A LOT. There was no way the mixture I had would only make 18 small custards like the recipe said. If you want to make that amount, I would recommend at least halving this recipe. The one step I added is that I strained my custard mixture before putting it in the tins. I do this for any custard or curd that I make, and I feel that it’s important in order to get a smooth texture.

I didn’t have a pudding tin and my muffin pans were too large to put in a water bath, so I decided to use my mini cheesecake pan. I didn’t take into account how watery this mixture is compared to a cake batter so, as you can see, during the baking process a few of my custards seeped out of the pan.

I often find egg custards too “eggy” for my taste, but these custards actually had a light flavor that I found appealing. I attribute that to the honey. I also enjoyed the black pepper on top—clearly those Romans knew what they were doing.

What I learned: A water bath is essential for baking custards. Since I had so much extra batter, I decided to make a batch of custards in a muffin tin but without a water bath and the result was  horrible.

If you would like to learn more about Roman cooking and enjoy a Roman Feast, you can purchase your tickets for the event here.

Twinkle Toes

Celebrate Wednesday’s “No Sock Day” and bare your ankles when you visit our new exhibition, The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum.

Friday Photos: Mighty Aphrodite

Having just visited Rome for the first time last week, I am certainly geared up for our new exhibition, The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum. While there, I not only enjoyed a ridiculous amount of bread and pasta, I also discovered some fantastic ancient artwork. One lady that I liked to search for in the many museum collections was Venus or, as she was known to the Greeks, Aphrodite. Here are some ancient sculptures of the Goddess of Love that I came across during my trip:

Stop by and visit Aphrodite and some more beautiful bodies in the exhibition when it opens this Sunday, May 5. And if you’re a DMA Friend, don’t forget to check in for your special exhibition badge!

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives

Human Heroes & The Body Beautiful

I have worked on many big, exciting exhibitions at the DMA since I came here in 1975, ranging from Pompeii AD 79 to Chola Bronzes from South India, Splendors of China’s Forbidden City, and Tutankhamun: The Golden Age of the Pharaohs, but The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum is one of the most extraordinary. On my many visits to London, I am always amazed at the treasures in the British Museum, and now Dallas has a chance to see some of their best art at the DMA.

I still remember my first trip to Greece in 1960. My husband, Alan, and I roamed, sometimes as the sole visitors, over the acropolis in Athens, the AcroCorinth Mountain looming over the ancient city of Corinth, the temple of Apollo at Delphi, with its precipitous view straight down a mountainside to the sea, and the ruins of Olympia, where the Olympic Games began. No one was at Olympia then, except a boy herding black goats and someone playing a flute. Otherwise, the wind blew over the grasses and fallen stones. It was like visiting Pan, the god of nature, on his own turf. I fell in love with great sculptures like the youthful Charioteer at Delphi and the majestic Poseidon in Athens, feeling for the first time the stunning impact of ideal human beauty envisioned in art. Some of Alan’s photos from our trips to Greece will be part of an educational video on the sites of the Panhellenic games.

Marble statue of a victorious athlete, Roman period, first century AD, after a lost Greek original of about 430 BC, GR 1857,0807.1 (Sculpture 1754) © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Marble statue of a victorious athlete, Roman period, 1st century AD, after a lost Greek original of about 430 BC, © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum displays this Greek vision of ideal human figures, particularly male nude figures. Such sculptures were admired by the Greeks because they believed that a young man who was a victor in one of the great athletic games, and who performed naked, had reached the height of glory that a man could achieve. Such victories were akin to dying heroically in battle. The same vision is best expressed in literature in Homer’s Iliad, where Achilles leads the Greeks to victory over Troy, but dies before the war is over. This ideal of human triumph is expressed in several works in the exhibition, particularly the discus thrower by Myron and the young athlete by Polykleitos. Although both of these works are shown in later Roman versions, they embody the Greek ideal of a radiant youthful victor. In a way the figures look ideal and “classical,” and in another way they are very seductive. They remind me of Keats’ description of Greek figures in Ode to a Grecian Urn: “Forever warm and still to be enjoyed; forever panting and forever young.”

Marble statue of discus thrower (diskobolos), Roman period, second century AD, after a lost Greek original of about 450–440 BC, from the villa of the emperor Hadrian at Tivoli, Italy, GR 1805,0703.43 (Sculpture 250) AN 396999, © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Marble statue of discus thrower (diskobolos), Roman period, 2nd century AD, after a lost Greek original of about 450–440 BC, © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Works like the discus thrower and several other pieces in the show come from the great villa of the Emperor Hadrian at Tivoli, built in the 2nd century AD. They are testaments to the influence and vitality of Greek art during the Roman Empire. Hadrian was a very cultivated man who collected Greek art and commissioned many artworks in the Greek tradition. He was also personally a lover of young men. His character and life are well described in Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel Hadrian’s Memoirs. Hadrian’s villa is another delightful place that Alan and I visit often: it is a gorgeous temple of art and landscaping.

Black-figured amphora, Greek, made in Athens, about 540-520 BC, attributed to the Swing Painter, probably from Etruria, Italy, GR 1837,0609.65 (Vase B182) © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Black-figured amphora, Greek, made in Athens, about 540-520 BC, attributed to the Swing Painter, probably from Etruria, Italy, © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Besides the marble and bronze sculptures, the exhibition includes numerous painted vases, which bring to life the kinds of sports performed at Greek athletic competitions, stories, and myths of gods and heroes, and many scenes of ordinary life, including erotic encounters. Alan and I have collected ceramics all our lives, including some Greek examples. Greek vase painting has a narrative appeal; many images suggest the dramatic scenes found in the Greek theater, as well as actual scenes of masked actors. The love of real life and people is as important in Greek culture as idealizing art. I always think that it’s important to remember that the Greeks were keen observers. The kind of study of living bodies that you see in Greek sculptures is similar to the understanding that led to advances in science and medicine.

Bronze statue of Zeus, Roman period, first century AD, after Greek original of about 440 BC, said to be from Greece, GR 1824,0446.16 (Bronze 910 AN381063001) © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Bronze statue of Zeus, Roman period, 1st century AD, after a Greek original of about 440 BC, said to be from Greece, © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

One of the most significant figures in The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece is Herakles, a human hero, but also the child of Zeus, king of the gods. Herakles accomplished superhuman labors triumphantly (such as killing the Nemean lion, whose skin he is shown wearing), but he also suffered greatly. Driven mad by the jealous goddess Hera, he killed his first wife and children. At the end of his life, he was poisoned in ignorance by his second wife. In great pain, he burned himself alive on a funeral pyre. Yet Zeus and the other gods accepted him after death on Mt. Olympus, the only human to achieve immortality. His splendid, but painful, life exemplifies the Greek belief that “those whom the gods love die young.” Better to go at the height of youthful strength and beauty.

Dr. Anne R. Bromberg, the DMA’s Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art.

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