Roman Saturnalia Sweets Plate

It’s Christmas time!  The true meaning of the holiday is complicated, and always has been, thanks to its mix and match ancient origins (yes, before the birth of Jesus).

Even though that famous nativity scene is the official reason for the holiday, many of the activities and traditions we practice at Christmastime come from much older customs celebrating the winter solstice.  Decorated trees, gift giving, holly, mistletoe, caroling, and much more all have ancient, B.C. origins, and were later folded into the Christian celebration.

No ancient holiday influenced Christmas more than the Roman Saturnalia. The actual date of Jesus’s birth is unknown, but in the 4th Century A.D., Pope Julius I declared it to officially be December 25th.  Many speculate that this was to Christianize Saturnalia, a holiday that many in Medieval Europe still celebrated despite the fading out of Rome.

Saturnalia was known for gift giving, charity, and above all, feasting and merriment! So to celebrate, I dug into Apicius for some dulcia, or sweets recipes, to make a dessert plate worthy of both a festive Roman noble, and a  chef and amateur historian thousands of years later.

 

“Roman” Toast, Stuffed candied dates, and fresh cheese with honey! Continue reading “Roman Saturnalia Sweets Plate”

Baklava from Scratch

Baklava is another one of those Mediterranean foods that every country touching the sea claims to have invented in some form or another. While the sweet nut and filo pastry in its exact form is a more modern creation, the basic ingredients go back much further, to the ancient days of those same lands.

I thought it would be fun to make a more “primitive”baklava, forgoing all the fussing around with store-bought filo, using nuts indigenous to the ancient near east, and just honey for sweetening.  Sugar doesn’t amount to more than a rare luxury good for many thousands of years.

 

Continue reading “Baklava from Scratch”