Saturday, June 27, 2009


Fatti i cazzi tuoi, ca campi cent'anni.
(Mind your own business, and you'll live 100 years.)

Nook of Naples:  Tucked away behind a complex of apartments, Boscoreale lies about two kilometers away from Pompeii.  During Roman times, the area was part of a hunting reserve.  

This particular villa burned down during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, so there's not much to see.  I walk down a slope to the excavation site thirty feet below ground level.  Only a few rooms remain, but the kitchen makes the visit worthwhile.  Inside are rows of buried amphorae that must have held all sorts of delights.

Next to the villa, a small museum houses frescoes, marble statues, and other items.  But there's no brochure and the collection is eclectic, not necessarily displaying what was found exclusively at this location.  

Interestingly, a huge number of coins were hidden in a cistern at Boscoreale just before the eruption.  They were re-discovered in the late nineteenth century and museums throughout Europe, including the Louvre, snatched up the coins for their own collections.  Fortunately, many frescoes and coins from Boscoreale can also be admired at the National Archeological Museum in downtown Naples.

Wine: Lacryma Christi comes from this region.  The name, meaning 'the tears of Christ', derives from an old tale that when Christ wept over Lucifer's fall from heaven, his bountiful tears fell along the sides of the volcano.  Certainly, the lava flows on Mt. Vesuvius have made the lower slopes extremely fertile.  Click the Recommended Wines on the Cellar Tours website to find out more.

La Cucina Napoletana:  The oldest surviving work of Latin prose, Cato's On Agriculture dates back to around 160 B.C.  The work gives detailed information on the customs, superstitions, farming techniques, and cooking recipes of his time.  

In her Ricette Della Cucina Romana A Pompei, Eugenia Salza Prina Ricotti cites several of Cato recipes, including this one:

Mix two pounds of cheese in a mortar.  When you have made it smooth, knead the cheese into one pound of flour, or if you want it more light, a half pound.  Add one egg and knead again.  Form a round loaf, put on a bed of leaves and cook slowly in a hot oven.  (Cato, On Agriculture LXXV)

Here are Eugenia's additional comments:

Libum Di Catone
2 cups ricotta
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
1 pinch of salt

Cato described how to cook one large round loaf, but today it's much more practical to make a small bun that can be served like bread.  So agree to make the loaves about 2 inches in diameter.  Given that it inflates in the oven, it's good to remember to put them a little distance apart on the baking sheet.  The kneading Cato recommends results in a very soft mixture that tends to stick to the hands when shaping the buns, so it's good to use a spoon with a little flour when making each roll, giving it the form of a marble that you flatten and put on an already greased baking sheet.  Put the buns in the oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.  

Optimally serve Libum with cocktails for a party (or at a diner on foot).  In this case, double or triple the quantity according to the number of guests, but remember that when using up to 4 cups of ricotta, you continue to use only one egg.


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