The Philosopher's Kitchen: Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook

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"Pleasure is the beginning and end of living happily," said the Greek philosopher Epicurus two thousand years ago. Certainly the dazzlingly varied, subtly seasoned cuisine of ancient Greece and Rome measured up to the highest standards of eating pleasure. The Philosopher's Kitchen offers seductive, modern interpretations of these dishes using a variety of sources, from writings by Plato, Aristotle, Homer, and Cicero to the oldest known surviving cookbook.

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Overview

"Pleasure is the beginning and end of living happily," said the Greek philosopher Epicurus two thousand years ago. Certainly the dazzlingly varied, subtly seasoned cuisine of ancient Greece and Rome measured up to the highest standards of eating pleasure. The Philosopher's Kitchen offers seductive, modern interpretations of these dishes using a variety of sources, from writings by Plato, Aristotle, Homer, and Cicero to the oldest known surviving cookbook.

Here is a rich array of culinary delights, ab ovo usque ab malum, or "from eggs to fruit," as the Romans said. Mussels in Cumin Sherry Sauce, Chestnut-Mint Puree, Chicken Breasts with Hazelnut Pesto, Lamb with Pomegranate-Glazed Onions, and Walnut Cake with Fig Jam are just a few of the delicious, healthy, and gorgeous recipes in this book that will delight and surprise the modern cook.

Francine Segan also allows us a glimpse into the ancient world by putting each recipe in its cultural context, taking us to Greek feasts and Roman banquets and revealing customs, expressions, and superstitions that are still very much a part of modern life. She shares tips on entertaining, even including sample invitations a host can use to summon friends to a Roman spread of his or her own.

Organized for easy, efficient use and replete with Tim Turner's stunning photographs, The Philosopher's Kitchen is a glorious buffet for the senses, providing literal food for thought.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The ancient Greeks and Romans invented everything from decision by coin toss to the political filibuster. And, as food historian Segan shows in this clever cookbook, they invented many of our favorite dishes, too-or at least their predecessors. She wisely updates the ancient recipes so they appeal to modern palates (e.g., by replacing the sheets of dry, thin bread in an intriguing Free-Form Cherry Lasagna with pasta). However, she's kept to the spirit of history, so Vegetable and Bean Barley Soup doesn't contain tomatoes, as those were imported from the Americas after Columbus visited. Her food-related tidbits are just as appealing as the food itself: Pythagoras eschewed beans because they were associated with bureaucracy (hence the expression "bean counter"), and Hippocrates suggested getting drunk and engaging in sex to heal sore muscles. While in many books a final chapter with menus is almost a throwaway, Segan makes the most of hers by discussing the philosophy of entertaining in ancient times and offering sample invitations with appropriate quotes for a New Year's Eve Bacchanal, Plato's Birthday and other occasions. This attention to detail and user-friendly attitude are typical of this excellent book as a whole. Color, b&w photos. (On sale Aug. 3) Forecast: In the tradition of Van Gogh's Table (Artisan, 2001) and Segan's own Shakespeare's Kitchen (Random, 2003), this should elicit interest from home cooks and history buffs alike. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Minted Garlic Spread, Tuna with Mint-Caper Pesto, and Seared Duck Breast with Glazed Turnips hardly sound like centuries-old dishes, yet food historian Segan (Shakespeare's Kitchen) derived these and other recipes from the writings of Hippocrates, Greek and Roman poetry, and a second-century book on food and entertaining called The Philosopher's Table. In most cases, Segan supplies the original recipe along with the modern version or provides a descriptive quote from the source where she discovered the dish; her readable headnotes provide both general background and specific provenance for the individual recipes. Many of the dishes are shown in full color, and photographs of ancient gardens and Roman ruins add nicely to the book's ambiance. Recommended for collections in culinary history and other larger libraries. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400060993
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/3/2004
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 8.24 (w) x 10.22 (h) x 0.89 (d)

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