Did you know that honey has been associated with royalty, wealth, health and even love for as long as written history could record?
Egyptian pharaohs used honey in their marriages, in beauty regimens, Romans made honey cakes and offered them to Gods, and according to Greek mythology Cupid dipped his love arrows in sweet honey and aimed them at unexpected lovers.
Today, I want to talk about some ancient Roman honey legends and recipes.
In Roman empire, honey was glorified as a luxurious food came from the Gods.
Thats why many Roman and Greek poets described their favorite honey recipes in their written works and tried to promote the practice as something divine. They insisted that honey was not always available to humans and mortals alike. It was a treat of the royals and the Gods until honey was brought to mankind by bees as the first food.
According to Greek and Roman mythology, there was a sacred cavern full of honey, a place of immortality where time did not exist. The place where no-one could die. Especially after touching the honey guarded by bees all the while.
Time came, when queen Rhea gave birth to Zeus in this cavern, who was cared for after his birth by the fiery bees.
One day, four intruders wearing steal armors came in to steal the honey. They sneaked into the cavern and slowly tried to collect the sacred substance. But before they could continue their eyes caught a new born baby lying on the ground of the cavern drenched in blood. They stumbled around in fear and their armor dropped making a loud noise. Seeing the intruders the bees swarmed to protect the baby God. But baby Zeus forgave the intruders and let the bees carry honey to the mortal world. Seeing the devotion of the bees Zeus granted the insects a motto of courage and ordered mortals to always honor them as such.
Its not hard to imagine that honey was considered as such an esteemed product for so long. When untreated and in most pure and natural form, it can be used for so many different purposes, to treat ailments, for beauty and to make healthy and satisfactory dishes.
In Roman time, one of the most delicious and famous recipes was stuffed fig leaves cooked in honey.
This was a favorite recipe of an ancient Julius Pollux who epitomized honey in cooking.
Originally, this was the ancient recipe by Pollux half Egyptian and half Greek expert.
First you make a stuffing out of lard, calf brains and eggs. Then, you take the fig leaves and stuff them with the mixture and roll them up. After you made small balls of leave stuffings, you boil them in chicken broth for 30 minutes. Once the stuffings are cooked, you drain them and recook them in honey for another 10 minutes for the final taste. And done.
It does sound slightly icky to image a dish with brains. But beef and veil brains has been used in cuisines of France, Italy, Spain, El Salvador and Mexico for a very long time. Of course, since its probably not the easiest thing in the US to get your hands on some brains (and kinda the grossest), for our modern times, it is best to replace them with pork. Fig leaves could also be replaced with grape leaves but won’t be as sweet.
For one of those days, when you are sitting around the house and don’t know exactly what you want to do or have for lunch, go ahead and walk to your nearest whole foods store. Grab yourself some of these ingredients and try to whip them up to this ancient recipe. See how you like it, you might be surprised.
And it never hurts to try something new. You never know. You can always say you cooked a two thousand year old recipe intended for the royals.