But, for my own part, it was Greek to me
William Shakespeare, The Life and Death of Julies Caesar (Act I, Scene II).
A massive outdoor 1916 production of “Julius Caesar” in Beachwood Canyon to celebrate William Shakespeare’s 300th birthday.
It was during a search for an “old” recipe that would use ricotta, that’s when I came across a recipe called “Savillum” (the ancient roman cheesecake). Savillum is linked to the festival of Lupercalia, which get’s an indirect mention in William Shakespeare‘s, The Life And Death OF Julies Caesar.
Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 13 through 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia subsumed Februa, an earlier-origin spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gives the month of February its name.
Inspired by Namaste Mama‘s version of this ancient version of dairy indulgence, I was set to experiment.
Make a savillum thus: Mix 1/2 libra of flour and 2 1/2 librae of cheese, as is done for libum. Add 1/4 libra of honey and 1 egg. Grease an earthenware bowl with oil. When you have mixed the ingredients well, pour into the bowl and cover the bowl with an earthenware testo. See that you cook it well in the middle, where it is highest. When it is cooked, remove the bowl, spread with honey, sprinkle with poppy, put it back beneath the testo for a moment, and then remove. Serve it thus with a plate and spoon.
Since this recipe called for a sprinkle of poppy seeds, and I had a whole packed still in the pantry, I decided to make a poppy filling for the bottom of the cake.
Poppy seed filling
- 66 ml milk
- 25 g honey
- 40 g sugar
- 100 g Poppy Seeds (Papaver somniferum)
- 0.5 g cinnamon
- 25 ml rum
Bring the milk, honey and sugar to a boil, grind the poppy seeds and add them with the vanilla and cinnamon to the boiling liquid. Roast for two minutes over medium head and take off the heat. Add the rum and let cool.
And yes, like the old romans, we in Vindobona, (good old Vienna), we like a bit of a kick in our food from time to time. And yes, we do cultivate Opium Poppy in Austria. And yes, we can eat it, we can cook (or bake) with it. AND YES, if we smoke it we do go to jail.
…. and who wants that …. ? ….