Salvete omnes, and Happy New Year to you!
Well, here we are again… the end of another year and the end of another decade! Good Jupiter, where does the time go? 2019 was such a fast-moving and action-packed year for me, filled with archaeology, baking, master classes, travel, museums, media coverage, and awards! It was truly a year to remember and I am grateful to everyone who was a part of the Old School Kitchen programs in 2019 and I am also grateful to you for being a part of it all here online and in your own kitchens! 2020 promises to be a wonderful year with many surprises in store… but before we press on to the new year ahead, let’s have a quick look back at some of the memorable highlights from 2019:
Most Popular Recipe Page in 2019:
The recipe page with the most hits in 2019 was Baking Bread with the Romans: Part II – Panis Quadratus. The iconic Pompeian bread remains one of the most intriguing edible archaeology offerings on the site!
Hottest Recipe Published in 2019:
The hottest recipe of 2019 was The Greek Sweet Tooth: Goat-Cheese Honey Cake and rightly so, when you consider the history, the continuity, and the pleasing aesthetics of this delightful pastry. One of the most rewarding aspects of bread- and pastry-making in modern Italy and Greece is the fact that some of these recipes have been handed down, generation after generation, and in some cases the form and composition, that is to say the shape and the ingredients, haven’t changed much over time. This recipe is a stunning example of this dynamic… and it’s absolutely delicious!
Hottest Cooking Technology in 2019:
In 2019, I started releasing some original, and very unique, custom-designed food-preparation tools from my online store: The Tavola Shop. These tools were designed to be used with some of my recipes but to also engage the creativity and curiosity of my readers. The front-runners, by far, were the Cuneiform Rolling Pins…. Because sometimes a boring old biscuit calls for some ancient Assyrian script! This year I released four varieties of cuneiform rolling pins, to be used in conjunction with my holiday gingerbread recipe, and two of these pins featured direct passages from The Epic of Gilgamesh (The Yale Tablet). These pins weren’t just a novel Christmas baking tool but a device that encouraged the public to do their own research into ancient writing systems and ancient works of literature. To my great pleasure, they sold out time and time again over the holiday season to both the culinary creatives and to the academic world as well. There are still some pins in stock if you’d like to get rolling yourself!
Greatest Moments of 2019 – Meet your heroes:
They say never to meet your heroes but I strongly disagree! I was fortunate to have met two of my heroes in 2019 and both encounters gave me an opportunity to express gratitude for their work and to impress upon them both the impact that their work has had on their admirers and on my own life and outlook over the years:
Mary Beard: She has been an academic icon and a trailblazer for women in Classics, Classical Archaeology and media for much of her career. She has also stood strong in the face of patriarchy and misogynist criticism online, and in the media, fighting the good fight on behalf of women everywhere. In addition to all of this, she has a cracking sense of humour which makes her books and her presentations great fun to take in! Thank you, Mary!
Martin Gore: He is one of the founding members of Depeche Mode and is its primary songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He has created an astonishingly beautiful and emotionally powerful body of musical work that has been the soundtrack to many music-lovers’ lives who were born in the 1970s and after. Not only this, but Martin is also a kind and communicative individual who has spoken very frankly over the years, by way of his music and interviews, about his own personal ups and downs. Through this openness and his humanity, Martin has given strength to many of his fans as they navigate their own ups and downs as well. Thank you, Martin!
Best Press of 2019:
In November, my work was featured in The Economist – 1843 Magazine (UK) – How to eat like an Etruscan did (2,000 years ago) in an article written by John Hooper. Mr. Hooper, The Economist’s Italy and Vatican correspondent, was in attendance at the Old School Kitchen master class series at Castello di Potentino in June of 2018. He attended the Etruscan feast and wrote about my work, the importance of food archaeology and our Mediterranean food-roots. It was a pleasure to spend time with John and to see him again at the Potentino Pop-Up Dinner and Roman Feast that was held in London earlier this month.
In addition to the articles above, my work was also featured in the following pieces/productions:
May, 2019 – Ancient History Encyclopedia (UK/Global) – Dinner with the Romans: An Interview with Farrell Monaco
July 30, 2019 – Verve Magazine (New Zealand) – Ancient Eats with Farrell Monaco
September 2019 – Made in Pompeii (Pompei, Italy) – Archeologia e gastronomia si uniscono: ecco il Panis Quadratus: L’iniziativa di Farrell Monaco e Carmelo Esposito per realizzare il pane di Pompei by Marco Pirollo
August 11, 2019 – The Guardian / Observer – (United Kingdom) – Dig in! Archaeologists serve up ancient menus for modern tables by James Tapper
June 2019 – S7 Magazine (Russia) – Link to pdf article here
April 1, 2019 – The Feast Podcast (Canada) – Nailed It: Ancient Roman Edition
April 1, 2019 – AnthroDish Podcast (Canada) – Recreating the Foods of Ancient Rome
Memorable Events of 2019:
In June of 2019, I hit the road in Italy with food historian, Giorgio Franchetti, to conduct a series of Italian lectures on Roman food archaeology at Spazio Sinopie (Rome, Italy), The National Archaeological Museum of Florence, and the Archaeological Museum and the Imperial Villa of Nero at Anzio. What a wonderful time that was discussing Roman bread with Italian audiences and seeing how passionately the Italian people protect and discuss their cultural heritage.
In July of 2019, I conducted a 5-day live-in edible archaeology master class at the stunning Castello di Potentino, a palatial medieval castle hidden in a valley in the Tuscan countryside, and we cooked our way from Etruria to Rome! Guests arrived from Canada, Russia, the USA and Italy to learn about the archaeology of Etruscan, Greek and Roman foods and food preparation practices and then they rolled their sleeves up and cooked exclusive recipes that were developed for the master class programme. If you’d like to join us in 2020, click here to register. Note: There are two date blocks this year: May 31 to June 6th and Sept 6th to 12. Register for the week that suits you best!
In November, I was hosted by The Walters Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, and I conducted a bread-making workshop and two lectures at the Museum, for the public and for the museum staff. What a wonderful experience this was… with some new friends made in the process as well! Some of the students from the class drove in from out-of-state to participate in my Roman bread-making half-day class. After being asked by several of the students to return to beautiful Baltimore to conduct an all-day class, I will be planning to do just that in 2020. Stay tuned to the Classes and Retreats page for the details and for bookings in your area!
Following Baltimore, I hopped a plane to Dublin and presented a lecture at Trinity College Dublin for an auditorium of students who are members of Trinity College Classics Society! What a wonderful night that was. I love Ireland so much and it was good to be back and to speak to a room full of enthusiastic and engaging people.
Accolades and Awards:
In July, I was awarded the John Wacher Dissertation Prize in Roman Studies from the University of Leicester for my research conducted on the bread and in the bakeries of Pompeii in 2018. This was an incredible honour and acknowledgement on the part of both the School of Archaeology and by my advisors and academic heroes: Dr. David Mattingly and Dr. Penelope Allison. The publication of this research is forthcoming, and I look forward to sharing it with you shortly!
Saving the best for last, the most rewarding and emotional experience of 2019 was the evening that I was awarded the Best Special Interest Food Blog Award (Editor’s Choice) by Saveur Magazine at the Saveur Magazine Awards in Cincinnati. Tavola Mediterranea truly is a labour of love and a culinary archaeology public education project that was created using a combination of my education, my own research, and my deep appreciation of food and cooking. After years of writing, recipe development, and photography, it means the world to me to be acknowledged by a leading culinary publication that feels that the work I am producing is critical, both for Roman culinary history and archaeology, but also for shining a light on the history and archaeology of Roman food and food related labour: the work of women, the working class, and slaves in the Classical world.
Public Engagement with Schools in 2019:
This year I also had the pleasure of working with some schools in Italy and the USA in the development of their Roman food cookery projects. The Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts, connected with me via web conference for a lecture and Q&A prior to their cooking day and then they knocked it out of the park by baking Roman breads that would be envied by many a pistore!
Liceo Tito Lucrezio Caro in Padua, Italy, is preparing to cook and bake for the annual Notte Nazionale del Liceo Classico during which the students will prepare several of my recipes and will also stage various performances on aspects of Ancient Greek or Roman culture. I look forward to sharing videos and images of this event later this month!
Fitness in 2019:
So, you don’t have to be a genius to realize that you cannot subsist on a diet of Roman bread and Greek pastries, and be married into a large, food-loving Italian family, without having to have a fitness regime in place. I started running in 2019 to create some work-life balance, to stay fit, to build endurance, and to keep my heart and my brain happy. Running, for me, has been one of the most rewarding endeavors of my life. At first you don’t think you can do it…. then, next thing you know, you’re running in the Malibu Half Marathon! Completing my first half marathon taught me that we are all capable of big things when we simply focus, put our minds to it, and train for it over time. Lesson: Do not limit yourself. Get up and start doing something you don’t think you are capable of right now… you may surprise yourself and pull it off!
What’s Next in 2020?
2020 promises to be a year filled with some pretty big surprises including more archaeologically-based recipes, publications, travel, lectures, and classes. This year I will be visiting other states in the USA, Croatia, Canada, and New Zealand spreading the good word and cooking it old school with students and audiences from these regions. If you’d like to host or initiate an Old School Kitchen public education event in your city or at your institution, get in touch with me and let’s make it happen: firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you’re starting to plan your summer holidays for 2020, you’ll want to consider joining me this summer at Castello di Potentino for The Old School Kitchen: From Etruria to Rome (2020). There are two week-long booking blocks to choose from this year: one block in May; and one block in September. Pick one and let’s cook it old school together!
Lastly, 2019 was fantastic because you were along for the ride. Thank you for your continued support of Tavola Mediterranea and The Old School Kitchen. For reading, for writing, for cooking and for attending the live events. I loved meeting many of you in person in 2019 and I hope to meet more of you in 2020. Be sure to stay tuned on all platforms for coming posts and live events. If you’re one on but not another… get on them all and join the growing Tavola community on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
Happy New Year to you, my friends, and may 2020 bring health, happiness, and success to every single one of you. Go forward with your heads held high, with goals in mind, and with kindness and compassion in your hearts. Be good to yourselves and to others. Use your powers for good and not evil. Be honest, keep your promises, and live your life with purpose and integrity. Work hard. Work to your potential. Read. Rest. Sleep. Eat well. Give something of yourself to others and try to help people or animals who cannot help themselves. Make your mark. Leave a lasting impression. Turn towards the light, not the darkness,… and always look on the bright side of life. Keep cooking it old school and see you in 2020!
With gratitude and good wishes.
Tavola Mediterranea: Home of Culinary Archaeology on the Web
2019 Winner of Best Special Interest Food Blog by Saveur Magazine
Tel: Los Angeles: 213-348-1114 | London: 44-118-328-3315