By | Tuesday, January 18, 2011 3 comments
At the 2011 Key West Literary Seminar, David Mas Masumoto did something rather unusual during his talk. He handed out index cards to the audience, asking us to write the following at the top of our card, "I lost my food virginity when…" He then gave us a few minutes to write our story. Afterwards, some people read theirs aloud. Finally, he asked us to trade our cards with the people sitting next to us. It was a very interesting exercise. Here, then, is what I wrote:

It was my mother's birthday. She had made dinner for the family as she always did, but since it was her own birthday she had cooked a particularly special meal. She asked my father to get a bottle of wine from the cellar. This was unusual. Though there were cases of wine in the basement, my parents rarely drank any alcohol at all. They only had wine with dinner once or twice a year. My father went downstairs, returning with a bottle of Château Latour that had been laying there for some 20 or 30 years waiting for a "special occasion." This was to be its day.

There was a wine glass at my place, but when my father tilted the bottle to pour for me I declined because I didn't like wine. My mother said, "No, honey, you really have to try this." But I had never liked the Boone’s Farm, Gallo, or Manischewitz wines that I had tasted, so I refused. "No, no, you must try this," she said. So I accepted a tiny pour and tasted it. And then I understood.
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  1. Mehercule frater! Apicius does have explicit directions. Here's a short one: Patina de apua abuam lavas (wash the smallfry), ex oleo maceras (marinate in oil) in cummana conpones (put in a casserole) adicies oleum liquamen vinum (add in oil, fish sauce and wine) alligas fasciculos rute et origani et subinde fascicolos apababdiabis, (make bouquet garnis of rue and oregano and submerge) cum cocta fuerit proicies fsciculos et piper asperges et inferes (and when it's cooked remove the bouquets, sprinkle with pepper and serve). Now he doesn't tell you HOW to cook it! But these are otherwise pretty explicit direction.

  2. Hi Ken! Yes you are correct. There are many, many recipes in Apicius that include directions. I had in mind more of the recipes like #81, CITRON, "For the preparation of citron fruit we take silver from the mountains, silphium, dry mint, vinegar and broth." To which I say, "Gee, thanks Mr. Apicius! Now what?"

    Similarly #35, HYPOTRIMA: "pepper, lovage, dry mint, pignolia nuts, raisins, date wine, sweet cheese, honey, vinegar, broth, wine, oil, must or reduced must." Mmmmmmmm, mmmmmm! Sounds delicious. And I... pound them in a mortar? Boil them in a pot until the consistency of honey? Bury them in an amphora for 2-3 months? All of the above?

    Anyway, yes I was indulging in a bit of hyperbole and I have corrected my posting. Thanks for keeping me honest.

  3. By the way, both Ken's comment and my reply were supposed to be attached to the next blog entry entitled "Worldview," not this entry.