Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cheesecake, Olympian style

Even in antiquity, appropriate nutrition was part of the Olympic Games as the competitors expected that it would improve their performances. After their strenuous efforts, however, they felt – like our modern athletes – that they deserved some indulgence. One of these was what we would call nowadays, a cheesecake, i.e. a kind of flour cake layered with cheese and honey, the best of which came from Attica.

[Picture from the Quarzy Newsletter of Feb 2018]

As early as 250 BC, Archestratus of Gela wrote a gastronomic guide “Life of Luxury”. Unfortunately only fragments of his book have survived but one such scrap is recommending the cheesecake made in Athens as being the best, although the recipe is not being disclosed.

As always, the Romans were keen to copy the Greeks, including their cheesecake recipe which Cato the Elder in 160 BC included in his “De Agri Cultura” in five different variations. There was the vaillum, a sweet version and a savory one called libum often made as an offering to the gods. Both types were made with a simple mixture of flour and cheese that could be eaten with a spoon.

A fancier version was the placenta cake, alternating layers of dough, cheese, and honey and spiced with bay leaves. Occasionally this cake was sprinkled with black poppy seeds. Out of curiosity, we may want to experiment and create this placenta cake according to Cato’s original recipe:

Shape the placenta as follows: place a single row of tracta [a type of dough] along the whole length of the base dough. This is then covered with the mixture [cheese and honey] from the mortar. Place another row of tracta on top and go on doing so until all the cheese and honey have been used up. Finish with a layer of tracta…place the placenta in the oven and put a preheated lid on top of it. (with thanks to the Quarzy Newsletter of Feb 2018).

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