Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King

I’m back, and I greatly appreciate everyone’s patience and kind comments asking when I would get my ass back into the blogging world. Well, yesterday was the day. I’m officially moved into my gorgeous new house, which has the most beautiful kitchen, so Food in Books has returned.


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Having lived in controlled chaos surrounded by boxes of packed-up books and kitchenware over the past month was a challenge, and I kept myself sane by picturing the first literary meal I would cook in my new kitchen. While at the library last week I discovered Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome and of course, with a title like that, I had to read it.

It is the fictionalized story of Apicius, the earliest-known cookbook author. Apicius lived during the reign of Caesar Augustus and then Tiberius Caesar, and is known for writing what is known as De re coquinaria, the earliest collection of recipes known.ย  The historical detail is amazing, and the few known bits of information about the actual life of Apicius are woven seamlessly into the novel. Actual Roman condiments such as liquamen – a type of fish sauce – and silphium – a now-extinct type of fennel, and so many others – are demonstrated in the book recipes, which was very cool. Foodie nerd porn literature!

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The final feast cooked by Apicius’s cook, a free slave named Thracius, is a magnificent masterpiece of all known cuisines of ancient Rome. There are peacocks roasted and re-dressed in their own feathers, flamingo steaks, stuffed and fried baby birds; and roasted asparagus in mustard sauce. As tempting as it was to try and go all-out Roman and recreate the feast, I didn’t. Flamingos aren’t in season, you realize.


Asparagus in mustard sauce seemed doable, especially in light of the fact that being in modern times, I didn’t have to hand-grind mustard seeds into a paste and season to create the condiment. I cooked the asparagus with roasted garlic lemon chicken, which went deliciously well with the tangy, roasted asparagus dish. The ancient Romans would be pleased, I think.

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1 lb fresh asparagus
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons organic mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 375F. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and rinse well.

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Roast for up to 30 minutes, until they get those nice brown, charred bits.

In a large measuring cup, mix together the red wine vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. This is very much to taste, so adjust to your liking.


Drizzle the sauce over the roasted asparagus, serve with the chicken, and wolf down with the greed of an ancient Roman senator.

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And last but not least, a huge thanks and shout-out to Jen at http://www.readrantrockandroll.com for nominating me for another blog award. Jen, who also goes by the very cool moniker of Mischenko (sounds like a sexy Russian spy, doesn’t it?) writes about music, movies, books, gaming and food, in addition to modern culture, so I highly recommend her blog. https://readrantrockandroll.com/2017/07/30/award-real-neat-blog-award-1-2/


15 thoughts on “Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King

    1. I loved I, Claudius, as well! The miniseries Rome was fantastic, too. And then, who could forget that notorious 70s flick Caligula? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Lots to choose from in terms of material. I guess they just had extreme appetites in everything.


    1. James, you are too kind! Thank you so much! I greatly appreciate the shout-out and I love all of your posts as well. I’m inspired by a few of your books as well, for future blog posts and will ping back to you when I post them. Thank you again! You rock!


    1. I’ve bought it every week for the past couple of months. Love it so much! The sauce came out delicious, too, if you give it a try. It’s really good with other vegetables too.


  1. I’m so glad you’re back, Vanessa! Wow on the new kitchen! That has to be a very good feeling. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I hope you enjoy every minute and can’t wait for more recipes. ๐Ÿ’— Asparagus has always been a challenge for me, but this one sounds great. Will add. Talk soon and thanks for mentioning me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I know asparagus isn’t everyone’s favorite veg, but the mustard sauce was really divine and could go with Artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes or even grilled zucchini. And thank you for the award nomination, too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re so very welcome! I’m so excited that your back. I actually juice asparagus because it’s always been a challenge for me to eat it. I’ve baked it, but the consistency just gets to me. The sauce does sound yummy though, so I’ll try it. ๐Ÿ’— Chat soon!


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