Veni, vidi, coxi…

Posted By Astrid on Sep 16, 2014 in Appetizers, Blog, Vegetables | 0 comments

…or in your native tongue, I came, I saw, I cooked. I used to teach Latin at UNM for a few years, yet I never had any reason to know the word for “cook.” Until now, that is. Like so many Latin verbs, coquo refers to just about anything you might do in the kitchen (at least with preparing food, I mean—get your mind out of the gutter!), so it refers to cooking, baking, roasting, frying, boiling, steeping, melting. Plus it has more figurative meanings such as concoct, devise, harass, torture, torment (well okay, back in the gutter).

But don’t worry; that’s about it for your Latin lesson. I had an excellent supervisor in the Foreign Language department; at least, I got along with her well. Every spring, she and some of her cohorts would organize an event designed to generate interest in majoring in any of the foreign languages UNM offered for study. The event hosted local high school students, as well as students from all over New Mexico.

The best way to generate true interest in your particular language’s table/booth was to put out some food or drink. Now, this was fairly easy if you were from the Spanish, German, or French departments—a bit of food and the practicality of learning currently spoken languages would almost guarantee a few students joining your department for a major or minor study. This could even be easy if you were with any of the Asian studies programs, especially since these displays were always eye-catching and colorful—some sushi samples might help students gravitate to the Japanese department, even if you had the difficulty of learning not only to speak, but also to write in a completely different manner from English.

How do you get rather apathetic teenagers to come over to the Classics table, where one could revel in rather dry, old, and definitely dead languages? My fellow TAs made up grammar games and handouts with modern usages of Latin phrasing. Here’s a good one:

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus

Translation: “Never tickle a sleeping dragon.”

(This is sage advice from J. K. Rowling and is the motto for Hogwarts.)

My own contribution was always these two dishes I invented, based on some research into what Romans ate. This week, I’ll share the savory dish; next week, it’ll be the sweet one. It always amazed me how some teenagers were so reluctant to sample either of these dishes, but perhaps it was the fact that I insisted they try both dishes in true Roman fashion—meaning, they had to sprinkle a few drops of garum on top of it.

What is garum, you might ask? A modern equivalent is your typical fish sauce, or nam pla, found in the Asian department of pretty much any grocery store. Ancient Romans used this like we use ketchup or salt; they’d sprinkle it on anything and everything—sweet and savory. Next time, I’ll go into more details about this condiment.

For now, just try this tapenade. You might find it hard to believe, but there are only 4 ingredients in this recipe! Shocking. You are under no obligation to use any sort of garum. I’ve got some pepperoni and pepper-encrusted salami on the plate in the photo—yum!

Sapor Olivarum Caseique

(a.k.a. Relish of Olives and Cheese)


Roman Olives

  • One can of extra large pitted black olives (6 ounces dry weight or 170 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic flavored olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dry Italian seasoning
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely shredded (the saltier the better; you could also use a good quality Parmesan, or a combination)

Drain the olives well. Chop them rather finely and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and combine well. Cover and chill leftovers. Makes about 2 cups. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Serve with herby, garlicky crackers or bagel chips, pita chips or pita wedges. Sprinkle with garum if you want to do as the Romans do (or did…).

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