Our recipe this week is straight out of the pages of Roman literature. Moretum is a delicious spread similar to our pesto—and the Roman poet Virgil was apparently a big fan!
The word “moretum” is Latin and is usually translated as “salad,” but that’s not really an accurate translation. It’s not a salad at all, at least not what we think of as salad in modern times. It’s a sort of spread or dip. Virgil is most often credited with the recipe. In his poem entitled “Moretum” he tells the story of Symilus, a peasant farmer, who is making his morning meal. He first makes the bread, but quickly realizes he has no meat to go along with the crusty creation. Concerned that man cannot survive on bread alone, he decides to make an accompaniment for his baked good. Virgil then describes the process by which Symilus makes his moretum. Both the bread and moretum-making are described in detail in the poem, but here is a little summary of the important moretum highlights, courtesy of Pass the Garum blog:
- Symilus gathers four heads of garlic (!), celery, parsley, rue, and coriander seeds.
- He grinds the garlic in his mortar and pestle, and adds salt and cheese.
- He then adds the celery, rue, parsley, and coriander seeds. The smell is so strong that it makes his eyes water!
- He adds some olive oil, finishes off the mixture, and slaps some on his freshly baked bread.
There are a couple of things about this recipe we will not be replicating in the recipe below. For one thing, there is an awful lot of garlic. We’re going to tone that down a bit, but feel free to pile it on if you’re a garlic fan. The Romans loved garlic. They believed it increased “strength and endurance” and so it was fed to “soldiers and sailors.”
It was also believed to “clean the arteries” and guard against toxins and infections. Today we know that garlic is often effective in treating and preventing many different ailments including, but not limited to, blood and heart conditions, some types of cancer, diabetes and even the common cold and flu.
More important than the potential overuse of garlic, rue is poisonous. However, rue is not altogether bad. In fact, it contains alkaloids that made it a useful treatment for indigestion during this time period (1st century BCE). But it also strongly influences the female menstrual cycle so pregnant women should definitely not consume it. We chose a recipe that leaves it out altogether.
Now that we’ve explored some history and cut out the dangerous ingredients, it’s time for a pesto party! Bake (or buy) a loaf of delicious bread to eat with your moretum and have some friends over for a night of Roman cuisine.
Roman Garlic Pesto (Moretum)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 of a celery stick (with its leaves)
- A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
- A pinch of salt
- Some aged pecorino cheese (approx. 8 ounces), feta is also a popular option
- 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
- A splash of vinegar
Peel the garlic, add to the mortar and grind.
Add the salt, the cheese and the celery to the mortar and mash them up too. Really make sure to mix them well with the garlic from earlier.
To this paste, add the coriander seeds, parsley, oil and vinegar. I find that it is helpful to add the parsley in batches and break it down bit by bit rather than trying to do it all at once and making a mess. Test for flavor – if it is too garlicky, add more parsley.
Grab some bread and dip or spread ‘til your heart’s content!
From: Antiquity Now
The Fornacalia, a festival in honor of Fornax, the goddess of furnaces, was held in order that bread might be properly baked, and to bless the ovens used to dry grain. This festival was movable, and could have been held any time between Febuary 5th to February 17th.
Each year the Curio Maximus (a citizen charged with ensuring the observance of curial religious feasts) would announce the date of the Fornacalia and post a separate notice for each curia (neighborhood) in the Forum, probably indicating where each curia should gather for the final part of the celebration.
It is believed that every family in the curia brought far, that is, spelt (a kind of grain), to be toasted in the meeting hall and sacrificed to ensure that bread in the household ovens wouldn’t be burnt in the coming year. Then the curiae assembled for a collective feast.
If on the last day of the Fornacalia (17th of February) anyone had missed the feast or was not a member of a curia (or had forgotten which one he belonged to), he could make a private sacrifice at the general assembly of all the curiae called the Quirinalia. It is believed by some, that because of this the Romans called the Quirinalia the Stultorum feriae, the ‘Feast of Fools.’
To Do Today:
The Fornacalia was a festival of ovens, in which Fornax was invoked by baking wheat breads and other grain-related foods. So think about dusting off your cookbooks, especially any recipes from your family, and start baking! Even people pressed for time can usually make a bath of bread from frozen dough.
If you only own a microwave, have no fear – microwaveable soft-dough pretzels are readily available in the freezer section of your supermarket. Or, simpler still, have toast for breakfast this morning to internalize Fornax’s warm emotions. On the other hand, if you’d like to give Fornax a much needed break from her toils at your place, go out and eat! Just make sure to have some bread as part of your meal to welcome Fornax to your feast.
Finally, take any dried bread you have and crumble it up for the birds. Focus on your desire for love and closeness in your life. The birds will convey your wishes to Fornax, the heavens, and the four corners of creation.
A Ritual For Today
- Color: Brown
- Element: Fire
- Offerings: Give some of the loaves of bread to those who have need of it.
- Daily Meal: Everything baked – breads, cakes, pies, casseroles.
This ritual should be performed in the kitchen, with the altar built on top of the stove or inside the oven. Set a brown cloth with a red candle and many loaves of bread on wooden trays.
Invocation to Fornax
Goddess of the Oven
Lady of Fire Enclosed,
Sacred Baker of our food,
We all started as dough,
Raw and soft and unformed,
And we were patted into shape
By those who raised us,
Yet we could not bring ourselves
Fully grown to the table
Until we had endured
The hardening flame.
Be kind to us, Lady!
As we go through life
Let us not be scorched
Or spared the fire
But bring us gently through
To be our final selves.
Baker of the Loaf of Earth
We endure your fire
(One of the loaves is broken and handed around and shared, some more are set aside to eat later, and then the rest are taken to some deserving place and donated.)
- Ritual from: Pagan Book of Hours.org
- Other information collected from various sources
In Belgium, the Monday after Epiphany is called “lost Monday” and is a day of universal idleness. Hence probably has arisen the custom, not confined, however, to Belgian workmen alone, of idling every Monday or as they call it “making blue Monday.”
Plough-Monday is the first Monday after Twelfth Day (6th of January), so the date varies from year to year. It is so called because, the Christmas holidays being over, the men return to their plough or daily work. It was customary on this day for farm laborers to draw a plough—called “white” on account of the mummers being dressed in white, gaudily trimmed with flowers and ribbons—through the parish, soliciting “plough-money,” which would be spent in a frolic. The queen of the feast was called Bessy. The plough was also called “fond” or “fool,” because the procession is fond or foolish, not serious nor of a business character.
Dressed in clean white smocks decorated with ribbons, the men dragged a plow (plough) through the village and collected money for the “plow light” that was kept burning in the church all year. Often men from several farms joined together to pull the plow through all their villages. They sang and danced their way from village to village to the accompaniment of music. In the evening, each farmer provided a Plough Monday supper for his workers, with plentiful beef and ale for all.
Santa Claus may have gone back to the North Pole to rest, but it doesn’t mean the gift-giving (and receiving) is over — at least not for the thousands of children in Latin America and Spain anxiously awaiting“El Día de los Reyes” Celebration on Jan. 6th.
- Children leave their shoes right outside their doors so the Three Kings will leave their gifts inside, the bigger presents are placed around them.
- Many families leave a box of grass (or hay) and water for The Three King’s camels to eat. Similar to the tradition of leaving out cookies and milk for Santa Claus. Camels are known for being a bit sloppy and leaving a trail of hay behind that children can often follow to their gifts!
- Hispanic families will usually celebrate Three Kings Day with a scrumptious dinner that is topped off with the King’s Bread (Rosca de Reyes) for dessert. Children also sometimes make crowns to wear at the table in honor of the kings.
For many Christians, the holiday season doesn’t officially end until the 12th day of Christmas known as the “Feast of the Epiphany” or “Three Kings’ Day”.
The holiday marks the biblical adoration of baby Jesus by the three Kings, also referred to as three Wise Men or Magi. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the men found the divine child by following a star across the desert for twelve days to Bethlehem. Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar — representing Europe, Arabia, and Africa respectively — traveled by horse, camel, and elephant in order to present baby Jesus with three symbolic gifts.
The gold offered by one of the wise men is a symbolic acknowledgment of Jesus’ royal standing as “King of the Jews,” while the frankincense manifests the divine nature of the baby’s existence, since he is not an earthly king but the Son of God. And finally the myrrh, often used to embalm corpses, was gifted to the newborn as a symbol of Jesus’ mortality — foreshadowing his death as a means to cleanse humanity of its sins.
Reyes festivities come in different shapes and sizes across the globe from community parades to three-day celebrations at Disneyland. In Mexico, thousands gather every year to taste a mile-long “Rosca de Reyes” (Kings’ Bread) while others simply make the holiday staple at home honoring the tradition to hide a baby Jesus figurine within the bread — the person whose slice has the figurine must prepare tamales for everyone on the Day of the Candles on Feb. 2!
Source: Huffington Post
Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated in Canada and the United States. It was originally celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Several other places around the world observe similar celebrations. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated in a secular manner as well.
This is the perfect time of year for everyone around the world to be thankful for what they’ve been given.
- Sit quietly for a few minutes in complete silence. It’s best if you’re alone, and you close your eyes. Remove all problems from your thoughts for a moment. Push everything aside.
Then… think about what you DO have:
- Are you breathing? Yes, you are. Be thankful that you’ve been given LIFE…the biggest miracle of all.
- Do you have loved ones? Be thankful that they are in your life.
- Do you have a roof over your head – even if it’s hard to pay for? Be thankful for that… many people don’t.
- Are you starving? No? Be thankful that you have food to eat. There are millions starving around the world that would love to have some food from your cupboard.
Think for a moment how lucky you are to be alive… even if it’s not always easy.
Stir-up Sunday is an informal term in Anglican churches for the last Sunday before the season of Advent. It gets its name from the beginning of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer, which begins with the words, “Stir up, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”. But it has become associated with the custom of making the Christmas puddings on that day.
Why not blend the best of both worlds? Invoke the Goddess Hestia’s blessing in your kitchen and make some pudding for the whole family (or a gathering of friends). Traditionally, families gather together in the kitchen of their homes to mix and steam Christmas pudding on Stir-up Sunday. Parents taught their children how to mix ingredients for the pudding. Everyone took a turn to stir the pudding mix for each person involved is able to make a special wish for the year ahead. Practically, stirring the mixture is hard work, therefore as many as possible are involved.
By tradition the pudding mixture is stirred from East to West in honor of the three wise men who visited the baby Jesus.Have each person present stir the pudding clockwise for a few minutes as they focus on a wish. By next year at this time, the wish should manifest.
It was common practice to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The usual choice was a silver threepence or a sixpence. The coin was believed to bring wealth in the coming year. Other tokens are also known to have been included, such as a tiny wishbone (to bring good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), or an anchor (to symbolise safe harbour).
On a historical note:
The Christmas pudding is one of the essential British Christmas traditions and is said to have been introduced to Britain by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria (the reality is that the meat-less version was introduced from Germany by George I in 1714.). Most recipes for Christmas pudding require it to be cooked well in advance of Christmas and then reheated on Christmas day, so the collect of the day served as a useful reminder.
The Greek goddess of household affairs, Hestia watches over our cookery today to help manifest family unity and ensure tasty outcomes. As a hearth goddess, she provides the spiritual energy necessary to keep our faith sure and the inner fires burning bright. Greek art did not try to portray this goddess, because she was considered the beginning – the source from which all else was ignited and set in motion.
Light a candle this morning to welcome Hestia’s unity and energy into your home. Or, carry matches in your pocket so the spark of this goddess can ignite in any situation where it’s needed. Throughout the day, when you need more commitment to your beliefs, just light one match to invoke Hestia’s aid.
Collected from various sources
January 25, the birthday of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796), has become an occasion for Scots all over the world to gather together in his honor. A Burns Night supper usually includes haggis, a traditional dish of the heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep or calf minced with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings. Burns’s words: “Hail Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!” greets the dish’s entry into the room. Men wear kilts and women their tartan sashes, and the evening’s celebration includes reading Burns’s poems and singing his songs, ending with one of his most famous, “Auld Lang Syne.
Found at Almanac.com
The sixth day of Christmas (Dec 30) is the day of “Bringing in the Boar.” Two traditions honor the importance of the boar at Solstice tide. In Scandinavia, Frey, the god of sunshine, rode across the sky on his golden-bristled boar. Gulli-burstin, who was seen as a solar image, his spikes representing the rays of the sun.
In the ancient Norse tradition, the intention was to gain favor from Frey in the new year. The boar’s head with an apple in his mouth was carried into the banquet hall on a gold or silver dish to the sounds of trumpets and the songs of minstrels.
In Scandinavia and England Saint Stephen (whose feast day is Dec 26) is shown as tending to horses and bringing a boar’s head to a Yuletide banquet. Christmas ham is an old tradition in Sweden and may have originated as a winter solstice boar sacrifice to Freyr.
Here’s a song from 1607:
The Boar is dead,
Lo, here is his head,
What man could have done more
Than his head off to strike,
And bring it as I do before.
His living spoiled,
Where good men toiled,
Which makes kind Ceres sorry;
But now, dead and drawn,
he is very good brawn,
And we have brought it for ye.
Then set down the swineherd,
The foe of the vineyard,
Let Baccus crown his fall;
Let this boar’s head and mustard,
Stand for pig,goose and custard,
And so ye are welcome all.
From: The Winter Solstice and other sources.