Monday, April 18, 2011
In Greek mythology, the story of conflict during the wedding of Peleus and Thetis is used to explain historical conflict in real human history--such as the Trojan War. According to the story, Eris was angry that she had not been invited to the marriage celebration. To get even, she planted seeds of discord at the party by throwing a golden apple into the celebration. The fruit was labeled "To the fairest." The Greek goddesses began to argue about which woman deserved the prize. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite each made arguments that they were the fairest and deserving of the apple.
Trojan prince Paris was called in to judge the contest. Hera offered him political power if he chose her. Athena offered him wisdom and skill in battle. Aphrodite offered him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen. Paris handed the golden apple to Aphrodite. As the story goes, Paris stole Helen away from her Spartan husband and took her to Troy, thus starting the Trojan War.
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To celebrate the story of the Golden Apple, my family made a special dessert last night, inspired by the incredible cookbook by Francine Segan called The Philosopher's Kitchen: Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook. I've loved looking through this book full of fascinating stories connecting the history of ancient Greece with modern culinary adventures.
These are not utterly authentic ancient recipes by any means, but what Segan looses by deviation from history she more than gains by presenting practical and tempting dishes inspired by a culture long gone. I'm eager to try many of the recipes in the book, from Cherry Lasagna to Pea Souffle.
Perhaps best of all is the "Menus and Entertaining" chapter at the end of the book. Here there are historical discussions of the ancient ideas about feasting and entertaining as well as ideas for modern celebrations. How about having a party to celebrate Plato's birthday? Perhaps an outdoor picnic complete with Olympic games (including "ant chariot races" and "hot dog javelin hurling")? Or how about a vegetarian feast to usher in the beginning of spring?
The recipe for Golden Apples is quite simple and a tremendously showy dessert for company:
1. Peel and core a relatively small apple
2. Roll the apple in honey, then roll in a mix of brown sugar and spices
3. Cover it with a square of store-bought puff pastry
4. Stick a cinnamon stick into the center
5. Paint the pastry with egg wash
6. Bake for about half an hour in a 400 degree oven.
7. Garnish with a mint leaf.
I suggest making more than one Golden Apple for your party, just to prevent conflict...