June 23, 2008

Poppea's delight

I love figs. Nothing compares to their furious-red and sweet interiors. They are a perfect snack, very rich in fiber, and so sweet and juicy it’s like you’re eating the most perfect natural candy. When I was in Rome last summer I went to the market like three times a week and my fruit vendor reserved for me his best figs. Each time I went I had to buy more, because they are so irresistible.

Ancient Romans loved figs too. I can easily imagine the empress Poppea seductively enjoying her figs lying in the triclinium of her villa in Oplontis. Her villa is located near Pompeii, and it suffered the same fate as the Roman city: it was buried after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but because of that it is very well preserved. The majestic mural frescoes here are amazing. Among the spectacular frescoes, there is one depicting a plate filled with ripe figs. So, I’m pretty sure she liked to eat figs.

Ancients Romans used honey to sweeten and they loved nuts. So, when I visited Poppea’s villa I had the idea of recreating an ancient Roman dessert using figs, honey and walnuts.

Ripe figs
4 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp walnuts
1 Tbsp butter (or olive oil)

Cut the figs into quarters. In a saucepan warm the figs with the butter (or oil) over medium heat. Stir delicately. Add the honey and cook for a couple of minutes. Toss to coat and add the nuts just before serving.

For our modern palates butter works really well for this dessert; however even though butter was known by Romans, it was kind of a barbarian delicacy and not very suitable for keeping in the warm Italic lands. But if you want a more ancient Roman dessert, use olive oil.


Figs trees are magical. If you live in a Mediterranean country and you have a fig tree you’ll notice that the fruit comes without having a flower first. That’s because figs are actually edible flowers. So, figs really are flowers without a fruit. But not only that, figs trees produce flowers (fruits) twice a year.

Posted by Daziano at 7:51 PM |  


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