Friday, April 07, 2006

Of Olives, Figs, Dates, and Grapes

In Latin II we have been discussing Roman food and dining habits. Of course we covered reclining in the triclinium, garum, olive oil, and the undying myth of the vomitorium.

I always like to teach about the food and dining of the typical Roman on a typical day. We do talk about the banquets and the drinking parties, but it is the everyday element I like to stress. With that in mind we have a food-tasting day in which students bring in and sample different types of crusty, whole-grained, rustic breads, flatbreads, different varieties of cheeses, green and black olives (with pits in situ, soaking in jars, not tinny-tasting cans), figs, dates, grapes, a wide selection of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, honey, and grape juice.

I am always amazed at the students who have never tasted an olive or honey or even cheese that doesn't come wrapped in its individual plastic sleeve and think that figs only exist in a newton. I encourage them to keep an open mind and try at least something new. Some really do expand their palate.

What is popular with my students in recent years, due largely to the practice in some of our local Italian restaurants, is dipping (or even soaking!) crusty bread in olive oil. Now if I could just get them to rub some garlic on it first!

I have, of course, done the Roman banquet thing in the past and have found that it is not worth the time and expense of having students (and their parents) whip up a "real Roman dish" and then have students refuse to taste it. Keeping it simple is always a plus!

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