Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Historically Obsessed with Roman Food" by Kate Quinn author of Daughters of Rome and Mistress of Rome

"A.D. 69. The Roman Empire is up for the taking. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything-especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome. Elegant and ambitious, Cornelia embodies the essence of the perfect Roman wife. She lives to one day see her loyal husband as Emperor. Her sister Marcella is more aloof, content to witness history rather than make it. But when a bloody coup turns their world upside-down, both women must maneuver carefully just to stay alive. As Cornelia tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams, Marcella discovers a hidden talent for influencing the most powerful men in Rome. In the end, though, there can only be one Emperor...and one Empress".

Please welcome back to Historically Obsessed author Kate Quinn. Her previous release "Mistress of Rome" released last year and on April 5th "Daughters of Rome" hit book stores everywhere.  Kate visited last year for Mistress of Rome with "Historically Obsessed with fashion". Now lets see what Kate has in store for us this time.
Historically Obsessed with Roman Food

Obsessed with Roman food? Scratch that – while writing my historical fiction novel Daughters of Rome, I was obsessed with any food, because I wasn't getting any. I was on a diet while writing the second half of the book, and it was a form of torture I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Historical fiction novelists already have a hard time with diets because delicious food is constantly cropping up in the books we write. Set a book in the Middle Ages and soon you're drooling over sugar subtleties and spit-roasted boar. Writing about the Restoration period? Prepare to go on a Ben & Jerry's binge after detailing all the newly invented ice creams Charles II and his various mistresses went wild over. Or you could be very unlucky, like me, and write about ancient Rome: probably the most gastronomically inventive culture the world has ever produced. As if that weren't bad enough, Daughters of Rome happens to take place during the Year of Four Emperors – and the third of those four emperors was Vitellius, a walking stomach who was only on the throne about six months but spent most of that time eating literally the best food in the world.

It was torture. I choked down my dry crackers and calorie-free miso soup as my heroines dined on roast sparrows in spicy egg sauce and sausages with damsons and pomegranate seeds. I gave up dessert, but my heroines went to Imperial banquets and ate jellied roses in pastry. And wine – everyone in my book swilled goblet after filigreed silver goblet of wine (Romans drank little else) while I sipped grimly at my diet green tea.

Of course, not everything about Roman cuisine would please a 21st century eye. I for one am glad never to have been served an entire elephant trunk at a party. And when I read about one particularly famous Roman dish where a live fish was brought to the table still alive so the guests could watch it turn a pretty color as it died in a pool of lamprey milk sauce – all I could think was that I prefer my food to be dead by the time it reaches my plate, thank you. And if you're wondering how anybody managed to eat all those dishes at a 100 course banquet . . . well, legendary gourmets like Emperor Vitellius made use of a little room called a vomitorium after fifty courses or so, returned with an empty stomach, and kept right on eating through another fifty courses. (Bulimia: the Roman way.)

Still, Roman banquets were usually pleasant things, and you could do worse than to try hosting one the next time you're in an ambitious mood. Be sure to invite between three and nine guests (no less than the Three Graces, no more than the Nine Muses, according to a contemporary of Cicero in his instructions for the perfect dinner party), and seat everyone on a horseshoe arrangement of couches so they can recline on the left elbow while eating. You must provide entertainment, and remember that Greek orators are always appropriate and naked dancing girls always tacky. And here's a sample menu for your pre-dinner shopping trip:

Jellyfish and eggs
Boiled tree fungi with peppered fish-fat sauce
Sow's udders stuffed with milk and eggs
Sea urchins in spiced oil

Ham boiled with figs and bay leaves, rubbed with honey and baked in a pastry crust
Dormice stuffed with pork and pine nuts
Flamingo boiled with dates
Roast parrot
Boiled ostrich with sweet sauce
Fallow deer roasted with onion sauce, Jericho dates, raisins, oil, and honey
Turtledove boiled in its feathers

Hot African sweet-wine cakes with honey
Fricassee of roses with pastry
Dates stuffed with pine nuts and fried in honey

One more thing: can you please invite me to your Roman banquet? My diet of green tea and miso soup has for the most part paid off (despite a leetle lapse with a Roman-style oyster ragout) and I have now been cleared to eat all the stuffed dormice I want.

Lizzy, thanks for having me back this year! It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you Kate for the very enticing post. I could not imagine eating so many different things in one meal. Giveaway! Up for grabs is one brand new copy of Daughters of Rome by Kate Quinn. Open to US and Canada only. The ONLY rule is you MUST fill out the form below.

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  1. Dormice, Sow udders? Gross. I would be able to visit the vomitorium without partaking in those! Flamingos, ostrich, and parrots? Wow. I always heard about other cultures eating a lot more fowl that we currently do. But that's amazing.
    Thank you both for this wonderful post!!

  2. Oh man, I don't know how you stayed on a diet writing about some of those foods. I would have been a major failure. Hurray for amazing willpower!

  3. I am reading Quinn's book now and loving it! What a fabulous guest post, Kate:) But I have to admit that although I am a taste-anything-kind of gal and a hearty meat eater...this Roman party menu would have me making up all kinds of excuses to not show up or maybe arriving late (..only for dessert!) I can't imagine eating flamingo- or parrot for that matter! The dates and figs, yes...and also rose petal dessert I would try though:) Loved this post:) Thanks!

  4. OMG...I'm dieting right now as well and there is no way that I'd be hungry enough to try that We just bought the Rome Blue-Ray disc because we loved the series on HBO and wish they had not stopped it ;[
    Thanks for a great giveaway and fun post. Fondly, Roberta

  5. Wow - I don't think that I would want to eat too many of those things on that menu! Great post!

  6. I think I would have to stick with the dessert course! They certainly had interesting food, but not exactly to my taste. Dormice...ugh!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. Allison, yeah that one kind of grosses me out too. I am a sometime vegetarian and I go through phases of meat and no meat. My one weakness though is seafood. I guess it puts things in prospective of how even food has evolved so much.

    Meg, No kidding I would die reading about food. Kate has some super will power I guess.

    Lucy, lovely lovely lucy you are reading this one must be good then. Hehe I would hide with you too the live fish really grosses me out. I hope you love the read Lucy.

    Roberta, that makes two of us then. I started a new medication and gained 10 pounds in 3 weeks scary but true. I have not had the chance to catch the Rome series but I have a friend who loves it to death and they are not the history type so it must be really good then. Good luck on the Diet Roberta.

    Dolleygurl, no kidding but I guess if you never knew anything else it would not bother you much. Glad I did not live in ancient Rome.

    Michelle, LOL you are not alone in skipping to dessert, interesting yes but not enough veggies in there for my taste. Of course good luck in the giveaway everyone!

  8. Wonderful guest post -- I love this kind of stuff, even if my skin crawled a little reading some of the food options!

  9. Audra, creepy good but made me appreciate my modern selections LOL.

  10. In my youth I would have tried everything. Today I would skip the first course, have the ham and deer from the main course, and enjoy dessert. The parrot, flamingo and ostrich don't sound too bad. Don't feel much like crunching dormice bones and spitting out feathers.
    Actually, I have eaten worse than what is on the menu, 3 years as a Peace Corps volunteer in a 3rd world country many years ago, saw to that. I will try almost anything once.

  11. Librarypat, ha ha way to lay it out there and be honest. You sound like a very brave woman pat. Honestly I compare everything to Indian Jones where they had the nasty feast and it really puts things in prospective for me. It could be worse like monkey brains LOL. Glad you enjoyed the post Pat.

  12. i'm always amazed at how unappetizing ancient roman menus were. though the wine cakes do look interesting..but the greeks have it right with Honey cakes it's amazing stuff!

  13. Zafiro80, I have to admit I love Greek food and the honey cakes always make my mouth water in HF. So so true Roman food is kind of scary.


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