Food archaeologist, Farrell Monaco, is taking the show on the road… in The Old School Kitchen!
“Archaeologist. Baker. Food-Intaker.” Farrell Monaco is a food archaeologist and food-writer who has combined her education with her love for the culinary arts to produce a touring food history public education programme designed to engage the public in the archaeology of food by way of their stomachs!
About Farrell Monaco:
Farrell Monaco’s academic research centres on foodways, food preparation, and the role of bread in the daily diet in the Classical Mediterranean. In recent years she has worked as a team-member on Roman food archaeology projects with CEIPAC/EPNet at Monte Testaccio (Rome, Italy); The Pompeii Food & Drink Project (Pompei, Italy); and The Porta Sarno Necropolis Project (Pompei, Italy). Each project has provided critical data and insight into Classical Roman daily life, economy, politics, foodways and cultural identity.
Taking Roman food archaeological data one step further, Farrell is well known for her experimental archaeology projects where she painstakingly recreates Roman recipes using instruction and ingredients sourced from the archaeological, written and pictorial records. When possible, she uses original Roman food preparation and cooking technologies as well. Farrell’s take on this method of interpreting Roman food archaeology is unique in that she focusses on the sensory aspects of Roman food preparation itself to better understand the labour involved, the sights, smells, textures and flavour profiles that Classical Romans preferred and were surrounded by. In her own words, Farrell uses more than just her eyes to interpret Roman food archaeology data; she uses elbow grease and her taste buds as well. Farrell immerses herself in the interpretive process as the ‘missing human component’, making note of all sensory aspects of the reconstructive process, in order to better understand Roman food preferences, flavour profiles and the centrality of food preparation in the daily lives of Romans.
In 2018, Farrell conducted edible archaeology workshops and lectures at A Taste of Rome (2018) in Rome (Italy), at Terroir Tuscany global food symposium (Italy), and the Dallas Art Museum (USA). Her research and recreations are published on her food blog, Tavola Mediterranea, which was nominated by Saveur Magazine for the Best Special Interest Blog Award for 2018. Farrell’s work has also been featured online by archaeological institutions such as The British Museum and ARCH International and my media outlets such as the BBC, Atlas Obscura, Radio New Zealand, and Heritage Radio Network.
In recent years, Monaco’s research has centred around the bakeries of Pompeii and the iconic ‘Panis Quadratus’ carbonized loaves that were excavated at the archaeological site in 1862. With the blessings of the Soprintendenza speciale per i beni archeologici di Pompei and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Monaco has been studying the carbonized loaves at the ancient city of Pompeii in an effort to better understand their form, composition and their role in the daily diet of the Pompeian people in the 1st century AD. Monaco has also conducted experiments recreating the iconic carbonized loaves in an effort to understand the preparation process, the ingredients, and the behaviour of the form during the proofing, baking and consumption processes.
About The Old School Kitchen:
In 2018, Farrell took her experimental work and research findings into the public forum in Italy and the USA as a way to reconnect readers and class participants to their food roots and to food origins in general. The audiences were so responsive that Farrell was moved to develop more public education programming for the 2019 year. Farrell is proud to launch “The Old School Kitchen”, a touring public education programme that continues the immersive process of ‘cooking it old school’ through lectures and hands-on ‘edible archaeology’ workshops for participants in public, museum and educational settings. Programmes are available for children and adults and everyone in between! 2019 bookings include The Walters Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, Castello di Potentino in Tuscany (Italy), Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), and Museo della via Ostiense – Porta San Paolo in Rome (Italy).
Sample Presentation Formats:
- One hour lecture and presentation only, daytime or evening;
- One hour lecture and presentation followed by edible archaeology tasting reception;
- One hour lecture and presentation followed by half-day hands-on edible archaeology workshop;
- All-day hands-on edible archaeology workshop in a commercial kitchen;
- Intensive week-long edible archaeology course involving lectures and hands-on food preparation and tastings;
- Tours of food-related archaeological sites followed by hands-on edible archaeology workshop;
- Custom bespoke workshops focused on specific areas of interest.
“Farrell spoke at the Dallas Museum of Art as part of our Boshell Lecture Series on Archaeology. With an engaging and relatable presentation style, she described what archaeologists can learn about ancient peoples by studying their food ways and what is known about the diets of communities throughout the Roman Empire. Farrell’s passion and curiosity were infectious as she shared findings from her own archaeological fieldwork researching and recreating ancient recipes. After the program, audience members remarked on how engaging and informative the talk was.”
— Jessie Carillo, Manager of Adult Programming, Dallas Museum of Art
“Farrell Monaco is a charming and engaging presenter with a deep wealth of knowledge on Roman and Mediterranean foodways. During our Terroir Tuscany program, Farrell lead our group through the history of Etruscan culture with a focus on the importance of bread. Her expertise and passion for her subject, gave us a deep insight and appreciation for the importance of this society and the impact they had on the region. What was most interesting is that she took our group through the practical application of this learning simply by recreating and making the bread of this ancient group of people. With both the academic knowledge and the hands-on experience, it allowed everyone to truly understand the reality of the day-to-day life of the Etruscans. All Terroir delegates left extremely enthusiastic about her presentation and workshop, with a desire to learn more.“
— Arlene Stein, Executive Director, Terroir Hospitality
“Farrell Monaco gave a stunning and fascinating presentation on Etruscan and Roman bread at the Terroir Tuscany Symposium held in the Castello di Potentino this November – with some potentially ground breaking discoveries about leavened bread use in ancient Etruria! First we had an enlightening talk with excellent illustrations from tombs and some archaeological sites where she is excavating. Then, she completely engaged us with practical hand’s on demonstrations, grinding flour from the grain and even baked the most delicious examples of this type of bread for us with her special Pompeian yeast called ‘Popidius’ so that we had some little, adorable Etruscan buns wrapped in bay leaves with cumin and grapes with our meals. Delicious and intriguing. Farrell’s approach to discovering the secrets of the past is based not only on study and field work but on the experience of trial and error with ancient techniques and ingredients – getting your hands into the matter to comprehend texture, observing the reactions of the yeast and reproducing tastes that have not been enjoyed for millennia. She opened a door into the past through taste with ease and we all were guided skillfully through.“
— Charlotte Horton, Owner/Operator, Castello di Potentino
Would you like The Old School Kitchen to visit your city or institution? Reach out to your local museums, schools, universities, culinary schools and bakeries and tell them to get in touch to book an Old School Kitchen master class in their upcoming programming year! From evening lectures to day-long, hands-on workshops, The Old School Kitchen offers an opportunity for all participants, young and old, to learn, engage, and explore the origins of food and our culinary roots. For existing Old School Kitchen event dates, see the Events Calendar on this page. Come on out and let’s cook it old school! History is delicious!