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  • Menu of a Pub in Ancient Pompeii

    Posted on January 29th, 2021 cwmoore No comments

    In December 2020, archaeologists at the Archaeological Park of Pompeii announced that they had found the remains of these two men and the dog as they were excavating this ancient food establishment, known as a thermopolium.

    Researcher: Spaces like this thermopolium provide archaeologists like me with a realistic portrayal of what Roman food culture was like in comparison to sensational portrayals of Roman food culture

    The researcher re-constructed a typical meal based on article in the link below at the end of the text. The preparation is given next and this is the real “meat” of the article.

    Preparation

    1. Prepare the dough for the mensae: Dissolve the starter in the water, combine with the flour and salt, then knead the dough, cover it, and let it rest for one hour in a warm place.
    2. Place the duck in a pot, submerge it in water, add the dill and pinch of salt, and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer on medium-low for 45 minutes to create a light broth. If you’re feeling brave, add a few snail shells, goat bones, and pork bones to the broth for added flavor.
    3. After the mensae dough has rested, cut the dough in half, and fold each half into a ball. Using a rolling pin or the palm of your hand, flatten each ball into a disk. Cover with a damp tea towel and let the dough rest for another 30 minutes.
    4. In a pan, combine the olive oil and fish sauce with the oregano and coriander, then heat on medium-high.
    5. Remove the duck from the broth pot and sear it in the pan along with the oil, fish sauce, and herbs. Drizzle with half of the defrutum (or grape molasses). Once the duck has browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Keep the drippings in the pan.
    6. In a bowl, combine the remaining defrutum (or grape molasses) with the red wine vinegar, honey, diced dandelion greens (or cicoria), ground black pepper, lovage, cumin, coriander, and asafoetida and whisk it all together.
    7. In the pan, add the flour and duck fat (or lard or unsalted butter) to the drippings and make a roux by dissolving the flour and fat together on low heat. Use a whisk to prevent clumping.
    8. Combine the mixture of honey, vinegar, and spices with 1 cup (215 grams) of the duck broth and slowly add the liquid to the roux in the pan, on low heat, whisking it together until it begins to thicken into a sauce.
    9. Cook both mensae by either heating a grill or a frying pan with olive oil, on medium-high. Place each mensa onto the hot grill or pan and grill it until it starts to inflate. Then flip it over and grill the other side until golden brown. Lower your heat if the mensae are browning too quickly before inflating.
    10. Place a large dollop of the sauce on each serving dish. Slice the duck meat into bite-size morsels and place them on top of the sauce. Drizzle with additional broth to surround the duck morsels and garnish with sprigs of fresh oregano.
    11. Slice the grilled mensae into wedges and serve them alongside the sliced duck to soak up the sauce and the broth.

    Now take your bowl of braised duck and your bread, and imagine you’re in a Pompeiian popina. Find a stool where there’s enough light to see the food in front of you. You may have to sidle up next to a stranger so make sure your coin purse is secure. Best make this your last cup of wine. The ground always trembles beneath your feet when you’ve had too much and it’s doing so right now. Not to worry, the broth and bread will sober you up just enough to stagger out the front door past that dog that won’t stop barking at something off in the distance. Scratch his head to distract him, then say goodbye. Time to go while there’s still daylight. Is it daylight? The air outside has a strange yellow hue to it, and an acrid smell, and the earth feels as if it’s still trembling periodically as you steady yourself on the edge of a fountain. It’s probably just the wine but you’d better get home quickly. A dark cloud is forming above Vesuvio and it looks as if a storm is on its way.

    * Correction: This article originally stated that Pliny wrote the letter in 79 AD. It was several decades after the eruption, around 106 AD.

    https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/recreate-the-menu-of-pompeii-ancient-pub?utm_source=Atlas+Obscura+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b756f82470-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_01_29&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f36db9c480-b756f82470-70922829&mc_cid=b756f82470&mc_eid=248b0bf054

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