What Is Garum? And How to Use It for Cooking – Eater

Extremely tasty and frequently misunderstood, garum is a fermented fish sauce that traces its origins back to Roman times. Over the course of more than a dozen centuries, it has managed to sustain its influence in the culinary world, even if its preparation method may have changed: Unlike the Romans, today’s garum makers don’t typically use huge quantities of fish and salt and seawater to prepare it, much less stone tanks. While the designation “garum” has been used (often incorrectly) to define fish sauces obtained from fermentation without salt, true garum is as relevant as ever, beloved by chefs throughout the world for its robust, umami-rich flavors: With just a few drops of it, you get a whole new dish.

What Is Garum? And How to Use It for Cooking – Eater

Weekend Reads: “Sex and Sexuality in Ancient Rome”

Hi, everyone. I thought I’d give you a peek inside my Pompeii Fire research with this week’s review. Enjoy!

Sex and Sexuality in Ancient RomeSex and Sexuality in Ancient Rome by L.J. Trafford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I suspect a lot of people reading this book would be in for a surprise. Many folk think of ancient Rome as an incredibly licentious time and place. And maybe, if you were among the super-wealthy, it could be true (how many tales of what emperors got up to were put about by their political enemies will never be known).

What the Romans excelled at was keeping record of their laws … and that’s why we know that sexual behavior was very much regimented. Who could marry, mess about with, and do what acts with whom was a legal matter rather than a private one …and L.J. Trafford spells it all out.

If you are one who clutches pearls over George Carlin’s “seven words you can’t say on TV,” this may not be the book for you. The translations employed in this book are blunt, to say the least. If you are one who believes words have only the power we give them, it probably won’t bother you much.

We get an excellent look at sexuality in a patriarchal society here, with no punches pulled. Discussions of same-sex relationships occur alongside those of opposite-sex relationships; ancient Romans didn’t have a concept of “homosexual,” but rather one of dominant/submissive … and who was expected to play what role.

The book is well-researched (there’s a lengthy bibliography of primary and secondary sources), and entertaining. Highly recommended for those who wish a better understanding of the time period through the lens of the most personal of relationships.

View all my reviews

Sample Saturday: “Pompeii Fire”

Pompeii Fire v 2Hi, everyone. I know it’s late in the day, but I wanted to share a sample from my current work-in-progress, a dual timeline historical set in both modern-day and ancient Pompeii. This scene is from the modern portion. As always, this is an early draft and particulars may have changed by the time of publication. Enjoy!


When they got to the landing, tiny dinghies were taking on tourists two at a time. Dom helped Stephanie down, and the guide began rowing them around the island. Dom pointed out the high limestone cliffs and talked about how they made the island readily defensible.



“This is why it was a favorite place for emperors to come for their holidays, and also why Tiberius decided to just stay here and leave Sejanus in charge. He felt safer.”

When the boat came around to a tiny gap in the cliff wall, with a narrow chain coming out of its entrance and attached to the rocks, Damiano slid down into the boat below the gunwales.



“You will need to lie down, principessa. We have to go through that tiny gap and you cannot sit up.”



“No, Dom. Just no. I’m claustrophobic; I can’t. I didn’t know the opening would be this small; please, we have to go back.”

Blue_Grotto_IMG_0207“You will be safe, I promise. I will never let any harm come to you. Slide down next to me and put your head on my shoulder.”



Stephanie did as he asked, burying her face in his neck. His skin smelled of warm sun and limes; Stephanie breathed in as she closed her eyes and settled against him. Dom held her gently in his arms as the guide grabbed the chain and pulled hard against it to slide the boat through the narrow opening.



“You can open your eyes and sit up,” Dom said. “It’s safe now.”


(Blue Grotto photo credit: Deror_avi, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Black Friday? Cyber Monday? Wind back 2000 years to Ancient Rome « Alison Morton’s Thrillers

Christmas markets which now spring up in every self-respecting town and city may have their modern origins from those in Germany – a throwback itself to medieval winter markets and fairs – but December markets were a tradition in ancient Rome.

From the 17 December for a varying number of days, Romans of many centuries celebrated the festival of Saturnalia in honour of the god Saturn. Formal dress like the toga was abandoned for brighter, (the brighter the better) and looser tunics; eating and drinking increased as did gambling; masters, mistresses and slaves swapped places in the pecking order (even if for only a day); and family members and friends exchanged presents.

Black Friday? Cyber Monday? Wind back 2000 years to Ancient Rome « Alison Morton’s Thrillers

Pompeii Still Has Buried Secrets | The New Yorker

I got off at the stop called Pompeii Scavi—“the ruins of Pompeii”—and headed toward the modern gates that surround the ancient city. Before Pompeii was drowned in ash, it had a circumference of about two miles, enclosing an area of some hundred and seventy acres—a fifth the size of Central Park. Its population is estimated to have been about eleven thousand, roughly the same number as live in Battery Park City. After the ruins were rediscovered, in the mid-eighteenth century, formal excavations continued throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, with successive directors of the site exposing mansions, temples, baths, and, eventually, entire streets paved with volcanic rock. About a third of the ancient city has yet to be excavated, however; the consensus among scholars is that this remainder should be left for future archeologists, and their presumably more sophisticated technologies.

Pompeii Still Has Buried Secrets | The New Yorker

I always enjoy an opportunity to share a bit of my research process with readers. This article on Pompeii came out just a few days ago. The train station to which the author makes reference was half a block from my hotel in Pompei.

The article provides an excellent overview of the most current research into Pompeii’s ruins and what the future holds for site.