Thursday, June 12, 2008

rome week. i'm so excited

we're more than half way through Rome Week and today is two of my favourite things in the world: roman baths and saltimbocca.

i first had saltimbocca in a little restaurant in the via del govorno vecchio in rome. it was divine. it was magical. i was in love. foolishly i returned to that restaurant a few years later to have it again. it was not nearly as good. in fact it has never been as good as that first time, but i still love it. saltimbocca means 'jump in the mouth', because this is what it does - jumps in your mouth saying 'hey baby, i'm soooooo delicious'. basically it is veal scaloppini, dressed with a single sage leaf, covered with a slice of prosciutto before being lightly dusted, fried in butter and oil and finished off with marsla, or a white wine. there's a more detailed recipe here. but this is how mine looked tonight before i cooked them

and this is what they looked like after they came out of the pan

they're so quick and easy to cook it took me longer to steam the vegetables.

now to baths. baths really are one of my favourite things, and one of the reason's they're so great is that they combine the wonders of roman engineering with a great social commentary.

most roman city had a bath house, or thermae. Rome had several, including two whoppers built by the emperors Caracalla and Diocletian. little bit of trivia - if you're been to Rome you've probably been through the stazione termini, the main railway station. it's so named because of the baths of Diocletian next door (not because the place can drive you terminally insane. but that's also a possibility).

(Baths of Caracalla, Rome)

Most bath houses had a hot room (caldarium) warm room (tepidarium) and a cool room (fridgidarium). the floors of the hot room were suspended on columns creating a space under the floor that was heated by a furnace (this is referred to as a hypocaust), and some had hollow tiles that would transfer the heat up the walls. baths might also have pools, gymnasiums, even libraries. some had different sections, days or times for men and women, but most free Romans would visit the bath house for a good clean, but more importantly a chin wag and a gossip.

you might have taken along your slave who would have cleaned you with a strigil (a metal hook that would scrape of applied scented oils as a cleaning method before soap came along)

(a strigil. gooby!)

or you might have just caught up with your mates or business acquaintances for something to eat and drink. when visiting Pompeii i took off my shoes and walked around on the floor, known that Pompeian citizens would have gone about in their bare feet on those very tiles. it really was one of the biggest thrills of my life. I'm a sad old git ain't i???

but talking of eating and drinking reminds me of wolf nipple tips and dromedary pretzels.

tomorrow, minestrone and wall paintings

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