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When I think of my father, I think of his hands, weathered and already cold from the bait well, shaking me gently awake before dawn. "Time to go fishing," he'd whisper. His hands always smelled of smoke and the sea.

I was raised on fishing and the fish we caught, together, in the Gulf of Mexico. We would troll for king mackerel, jig for snapper, and chum for mahimahi. In the brackish waters behind our house, we'd net blue crabs in the morning and cast for trout at dusk. Whatever we kept, my mother cooked, usually that night.

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My father loved fishing, and I fished for him, for the hours and words that unspooled between the fishing and the catching. We unraveled our problems over tangled lines and reeled in meal after meal. After dinner, we'd scrape our plates off the dock, feeding tomorrow's catch.

Cross fishes with her father, April 2006, Clinch River, Tennessee | Photo: Justin Walker

When cancer took my father, the pastor wore a fishing shirt and we gathered on our dock—a simple wake in a no-wake zone. We drove Dad's Boston Whaler into the Gulf and watched his ashes vanish into the yawning blue. In his will, he left me rods and reels. For a long time, I avoided them. For seven dry years, I could not wet a line.

And then, one day, I was ready.


My father had taught me how to catch a fish. My mother had showed me how to cook one. But I had never learned the thing that has to happen in between. Cleaning my catch was the missing link, a huge gap between water and plate. I had never been responsible for this necessary act. I had never felt blood on my hands.

If I wanted to be a true angler, I needed to reckon with death. Could I own my place in the food chain? Would it change how I felt about fishing? Could I take a life and look my dying supper in the eye?

I didn't know if I could, or what it would mean.

But I knew I had to try.

I flew to Colorado alone, with a 5-weight rod and 10-weight questions. This was a personal milestone, a trip that wasn't planned for the sake of my father, husband, or son. Now, in a river I chose for myself, I would learn to fish for me.

Under the brim of Dad's fishing hat, I stood in the liquid-gold afternoon light, watching the lonesome waters part and coalesce around me. Wary trout and memories darted in the shadows. I practiced my roll cast, mended my line, and asked myself: Do I have what it takes to kill something pure and beautiful?

Until now, this had been a moot question. Most fly-fishers and commercial guides are religiously catch-and-release. But I had found an elegant camp where guests are allowed to sustainably "harvest" a trout and help prepare it for dinner.

The Broadmoor Fishing Camp flanks Tarryall Creek, which originates in one of our country's last true pristine watersheds, Colorado's Lost Creek Wilderness. Wild trout thrive in its virgin waters, on a natural diet of bugs. Compared to trout bred and stocked in many rivers, wild trout are said to fight a little harder, taste a little brighter. I wanted to know.

That first day, the Tarryall gave me rainbows, brookies, and a magnificent brown I cradled gently, lowering it into the current, feeling it quicken and slip through my fingers. I love this ephemeral moment of letting go, of touching something beautiful and letting it swim away.

I asked my guide to teach me how to clean a fish and told him why this mattered. Scott Tarrant, an extraordinary angler, understood. He had lost his own father, at the age of 2, to an accident on the Eagle River. Those waters haunted him all his life. As a grown man, he walked that river with a rod and a reel many times before he could use them. One day, he was ready. He pulled out trout after beautiful trout and threw them all back, until he felt the waters had repaid him. He thanked the river, walked away, and never fished it again.

Scott Tarrant, head guide and manager of The Broadmoor Fishing Camp | Photo: Justin Walker

Scott coached me gently through the eddies and shoals, letting me tie my own knots, stepping back into silence when I needed it. In my bag, I carried my father's fillet knife, its wooden handle bleached by sea and sun, its blade paper-thin from years of whetting on a stone by hand.

I was not ready to use it. That day, I threw everything back.

By the end of my second day, I was ready to take a fish. But the river was not ready to give me one. As dusk approached, Scott borrowed my rod and landed me a trout in the day's last light. It wasn't my fish, but it would teach me.

Scott showed me how to kill it gently, by pressing on the gills. The fish grew still, and I felt a pang in my chest, something hard to define. I had taken many fish before, but always at a distance, hearing the flapping grow still in the fish well. Scott noticed my swell of emotion.

"This fish gave its life for us," he said. "That's a pretty amazing thing."

I found a nice flat river rock and let him talk me through. I positioned Dad's knife against the white belly, just under the gills, and pushed. It was harder than I thought to break the skin. When I pierced it, a crimson ribbon of blood unfurled over my fingers. I made a clean cut from sternum to tail and peered inside. The pieces fit together so perfectly, the sum and substance of life.

"Insert your finger and pull it all out," Scott said.

Author Kim Cross uses her father's fillet knife | Photo: Justin Walker

The mystery spilled into my hands. The liver, a polished amethyst. The intestines, a shimmering skein of yarn. The tiny stomach bulging with a kaleidoscope of nymphs. I never knew guts could be gorgeous.

"This is a healthy fish," he said.

I had been scared by the prospect of what I might feel. Disgust? Regret? Guilt? I had worried that I might gag. Or freeze. Or flinch and cut myself. But it wasn't gross. Or sad. Or really all that strange.

What I felt surprised me. I felt viscerally connected to this fish, this life. I felt things I could never, ever feel about a shrink-wrapped trout fillet. I would eat this fish. Its molecules would become my molecules. Its memory, too, would be a part of me. It occurred to me then that aside from procreation, this is by far the most intimate act two living things can share. An act as old as life itself.

I took the entrails from the stone and placed them in the river. They would feed a bug, which could feed a fish, which might one day feed a man.

On the third day, under a glittering sky, the river yielded itself to me. I chose my own bugs and let 60 feet of line sing through the air, above the sigh of moving water. Scott gave me a lucky caddis, tied from the fur of a dog he had loved. When he needed to step way, I felt confident fishing alone.

That's when it happened, of course. In a shaded pool above a small cascade, a shadow rose. I set the hook and felt it dive and saw my fly rod genuflect. When a rod bends like that, you know the fish is a keeper—as long as you don't lose it.

We danced together, the fish and me. Rod tip high, tension on the line, I let it run, and brought it back, and let it run again, just like my father had taught me When at last I felt the line grow quiet, I reached for the net. I scooped up a rainbow trout—my trout—backlit water dripping like diamonds.

It was the prettiest thing I have ever seen—olive flecked with gold and black, the rosy blush of a lateral line, white belly glinting like mica. I knelt upon the rocky shore and bowed over my fish, weeping, in what felt like a benediction.

I pressed the gills tenderly, willing death to hurry. It took longer than I hoped before I felt the muscles go limp in my hands. My father's knife glanced in the sun as I cut. Blood and wonder spilled onto the rocks, and I slowly removed the organs. This stomach was filled not with bugs but with plants.

As I scraped the backbone, I saw the heart. A tiny red bulb—still beating! I held it in my palm, reeling with awe, watching it pulse impossibly.

In a blinding flash of memory, I was back at my father's bedside, in the moments when we gathered close to watch his old heart winding down. I remembered hanging on every breath, waiting for the end. It was a gift, the chance to share with him this moment of terrible beauty.

"You were a great dad," I whispered, then. "I love you. It's OK to go."

This moment on the river was no less profound. Hot tears slid off my chin. My hands were too bloody to wipe them away. I watched them fall into my trout.

"Thank you, fish," I said.

Truest prayer I've ever prayed.

I washed my hands and my fish in the river, mesmerized by its iridescence in the water and the dying light. In the eddy, I caught my own reflection, startled by what I saw. Rapture. I had never felt this raw before. I would never be the same.

We anointed the fish with olive oil, trussed it, stuffed with lemons and thyme, and grilled it on a cherrywood plank. My memory may be seasoned with nostalgia, but I believe my trout did fight stronger, did taste brighter, than any fish I've ever known.

That night, in the glow of the fire pit, Scott handed me a cheap beer and a fine cigar, a Cuban he lit with a blowtorch. I don't smoke, but I relished that cigar.

"You're officially part of the club," he said.

It was a cold night, and I cupped my fingers in front of my lips to warm them with hot breath. The scent of them left me breathless. For the very first time in my life, my own hands smelled of fish and smoke.

While at the Broadmoor Fishing Camp, Kim Cross enjoyed simple cooking that celebrated the beauty and delicate flavor of the fish. Here, two easy recipes you can make at home to capture the spirit of the camp.

Photo: Justin Walker; Styling: Kaitlyn Duross Walker

If you can't find whole trout, use fillets; they'll only need to grill for about 4 minutes. You can also use 20 ounces frozen, thawed cherries: Use the liquid (don't drain them); simmer in step 1 until the liquid almost fully evaporates before stirring in the port and honey.

Photo: Justin Walker; Styling: Kaitlyn Duross Walker

We absolutely love this simple, comforting hash. It pairs well with almost anything—the trout recipes, our Grilled Trout with Cherry Compote, of course, as well as roast chicken, pork chops, steak, and even sunny-side-up eggs. If you would like to get head start on the recipe, you can bake the sweet potatoes a day or two ahead; then you'll only need about 15 minutes to pull the dish together.

Kim Cross is the New York Times best-selling author of What Stands in a Storm. "The King of Tides," another of her stories about fishing, love, and loss, is featured in The Best American Sports Writing 2016. Read more at

11 Best Steamed Recipes | Easy Steamed Recipes

Steamed recipes- Credited as being one of the healthiest cooking techniques, the best part is that the process of steaming is easy, convenient and quick. You don't have to sweat it out in the kitchen to make your plate of perfectly steamed veggies or a fillet of butter garlic fish. All you need, are a few basic ingredients to dish out a range of lip-smacking treats (without having to worry about those extra calories).

Remember how much you loved Jon Favreau’s 2014 film, Chef? Well, the triple-threat actor/writer/director wasn’t done having fun in kitchens (or on the road), and this new travelogue-style docuseries from Favreau and Roy Choi (his collaborator on the original film) is the next generation of delicious for all of us. Every one of Season 1’s 20 episodes features a tasty adventure, from sipping reds with Wolfgang Puck to going wild for the smoked fish at Southern California’s famed Wexler’s Deli (and even a visit with Gwyneth Paltrow). Great company, great food, great fun.

Stream it here: The Chef Show on Netflix

Part-of-speech Tagging

Pos.correct manual

Create gold-standard data for part-of-speech tagging by correcting the model’s suggestions. The spaCy model will be used to predict part-of-speech tags, which the annotator can remove and correct if necessary. It’s often more efficient to focus on a few labels at a time, instead of annotating all labels jointly. The --fine-grained flag enables annotation of the fine-grained tags, i.e. Token.tag_ instead of Token.pos_ . Note that this can lead to unexpected results and very long tags for some language models that use fine-grained tags composed of morphological features, like spaCy’s default Italian or Dutch models.

This recipe used to be called pos.make-gold . You can still use it with that name, but you should change your code over to use pos.correct instead.

dataset strProdigy dataset to save annotations to.
spacy_model strLoadable spaCy model.
source strPath to text source or - to read from standard input.
--loader , -lo strOptional ID of text source loader. If not set, source file extension is used to determine loader. None
--label , -l strOne or more tags to annotate. Supports a comma-separated list or a path to a file with one label per line. If not set, all tags are shown.
--exclude , -e strComma-separated list of dataset IDs containing annotations to exclude. None
--unsegmented , -U boolDon’t split sentences. False
--fine-grained , -FG boolUse fine-grained part-of-speech tags, i.e. Token.tag_ instead of Token.pos_ . False

Pos.teach binary

Collect the best possible training data for a part-of-speech tagging model with the model in the loop. Based on your annotations, Prodigy will decide which questions to ask next. It’s often more efficient to focus on a few labels at a time, instead of annotating all labels jointly.

dataset strProdigy dataset to save annotations to.
spacy_model strLoadable spaCy model.
source strPath to text source or - to read from standard input.
--loader , -lo strOptional ID of text source loader. If not set, source file extension is used to determine loader. None
--label , -l strLabel(s) to annotate. Accepts single label or comma-separated list. If not set, all available labels will be returned. None
--tag-map , -tm str / Path Path to JSON mapping table for POS tags. Read from the spaCy tagger model if not provided. None
--patterns , -pt strOptional path to match patterns file to filter out entities. None
--exclude , -e strComma-separated list of dataset IDs containing annotations to exclude. None
--unsegmented , -U boolDon’t split sentences. False

If-Then Based Grouping

Consider the following traversal over the "modern" toy graph:

The result is an age distribution that simply shows that every "person" in the graph is of a different age. In some cases, this result is exactly what is needed, but sometimes a grouping may need to be transformed to provide a different picture of the result. For example, perhaps a grouping on the value "age" would be better represented by a domain concept such as "young", "old" and "very old".

Note that the by modulator has been altered from simply taking a string key of "age" to take a Traversal . That inner Traversal utilizes choose which is like an if-then-else clause. The choose is nested and would look like the following in Java:

The use of choose is a good intutive choice for this Traversal as it is a natural mapping to if-then-else , but there is another option to consider with coalesce :

The answer is the same, but this traversal removes the nested choose , which makes it easier to read.

A Feast Fit for a King

Some of the best meals ever are served on disposable plates at camp. aaron hitchins/rockhouse motion

In December 1950, a Mississippian named John Cullen mailed a letter to King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, inviting His Majesty to dinner the following autumn at the deer camp where Cullen was a member. The king had recently bestowed an honor, the Nobel Prize in Literature, upon another of the camp’s members—William Faulkner. Cullen wanted to reciprocate. A camp favorite, “coon and collards,” would be part of the menu, he wrote.

The dinner never happened, however, because the king graciously declined. But ever since reading about Cullen’s invitation many years ago, I’ve wished that it had. Not for the sake of the members, who would’ve doubtless seen their hunting curtailed by all the pomp and preparation, but for the sake of the Swedish monarch. Even in its simplest mani­festations, a hunting-camp dinner, then as now, is a unique and sublime occasion—the closest descendant to the original communal dinners where prehistoric hunters charred their kills over a fire, and where, I might add, the act of storytelling almost certainly began.

Cullen and Faulkner’s deer camp, despite its Nobel affili­ation, was nothing fancy: a galvanized tin structure in the silty bottomlands of the Mississippi Delta housing 16 bunks and a makeshift kitchen. Heat came from burning logs in a repurposed oil drum, and the wine was home-brewed from muscadine grapes. The dinner fare would’ve been designed to appeal as much to the gut as to the palate: coon and collards, as Cullen advertised broiled backstrap biscuits or cornbread. The king would’ve had to serve himself, in the way we now call “family style.” From the table, he might have had to clear poker chips or a can of gun oil to make room for his plate.

But let’s not mistake rustic with simple—and let’s hope the king would not have either. Because underlying the rough-hewn pleasures of a camp dinner is an intricate and ancient web of relationships: between the hunter and the game, most importantly, but also between the hunters themselves, steeped in camaraderie as well as inevitable competition between the young hunters and the old-timers and between change and tradition.

Oh, there’s a lot of nonsense that gets passed around at the table. Cullen liked to debate whether it’d be possible to kill a deer with a Hula-Hoop. But the nonsense is to counterbalance the seriousness of the shared endeavor, the gravity of wildlife becoming wild death, the primordial calculus, in Faulkner’s words, of “when to shoot and not to shoot, when to kill and when not to kill, and, better, what to do with it afterward.” The camp table is where all that comes together, where the harvest is shared, where the stories are told (and the exaggerations refuted), where all the elaborate efforts that hunting requires—and by this I mean the procurement of land or lease, establishing a camp, carving time from work and family, traveling, the great rigmarole that precedes the hunter even lacing up his boots—come to their ordained conclusion. Where the circle is closed, in other words. Where “the best of all breathing and forever the best of all listening,” as Faulkner described the act of hunting, becomes the best of all eating. And where some unlucky soul, royalty or not, must always get saddled with dish-washing duty. —Jonathan Miles

Seven Next-Level Wild-Turkey Recipes

Tess Rousey

Other than on a single day in November, turkeys don’t get much play as table fare, which, if you ask me, is a real shame. Though not as fat as a Butterball, an adult wild tom carries 10 pounds or more of meat. Many hunters no doubt favor the breast, but the dark, flavorful legs and thighs are great, too, when prepared correctly. To help give the wild gobbler the respect it deserves, here are seven creative and tasty recipes to try with your spring tom.

1. Greek Stuffed Gobbler Breast

A Mediterranean stuffed-meat favorite. Tess Rousey

An overnight brine called for in this recipe ensures that the meat stays moist throughout the cooking process, but it’s the feta and olives that give this stuffed turkey breast its bright flavor. Make your own Greek seasoning by mixing basil, dried oregano, marjoram, mint, and thyme.


½ cup kosher salt (for brine)

3 cups, packed fresh spinach

Greek Stuffed Gobbler Breast ingredients. Tess Rousey

Make a brine by whisking the salt and sugar into the hot water until they dissolve, then let the brine cool. Next, place the turkey breast in the cooled brine, then refrigerate and soak it overnight.

After the turkey breast sits overnight, remove it from the brine and butterfly it. Do this by setting the breast flat on a cutting board. Place a sharp knife parallel to the board and slice into the side of the breast. Continue cutting the breast in half, stopping about a ½ inch from the other side, so that the breast opens like a book. Place the butterflied breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound it to an even ½-inch thickness.

Prepare the stuffing by heating the olive oil in a skillet set over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic, along with a pinch of kosher salt, and cook for 3 minutes. Then, add the spinach to the pan and cook until just wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the feta cheese and olives, along with the Greek seasoning, remaining kosher salt, and black pepper.

Spread the spinach and feta stuffing in an even layer over the butterflied turkey breast, leaving a ½-inch edge around the meat. Starting with the short side of the breast, roll the turkey into a tight cylinder, tucking in the edges as you go. Secure the roll with butcher’s twine, tied at ½-inch intervals.

Grill or smoke the stuffed turkey until the thickest part of the meat reaches 155 degrees. Remove the turkey from the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serves 4

2. Turk-Fil-A Sandwich

A Southern-inspired twist on fried turkey. Tess Rousey

In my opinion, the Southern fast-food chain’s chicken sandwiches, basic as they may be, owe their popularity to one thing: the pickle-juice marinade. The soak not only adds flavor, but plumps up the chicken—or, in this case, the turkey breast—leaving it moist and juicy, even after frying in hot oil.


3 cups peanut or canola oil

Turk-Fil-A Sandwiches ingredients. Tess Rousey

Cut the turkey breast crosswise into three to four pieces, then pound each piece into ½-inch-thick cutlets. Place the cutlets in a large bowl or zip-top bag and pour the pickle juice over. Refrigerate and let them marinate for at least one hour or, better yet, overnight.

When ready to fry the turkey, pour oil into a cast-iron Dutch oven or high-sided skillet until the oil is a couple inches deep. Set over a medium-high burner and let heat to 350 degrees.

Whisk milk and the eggs together in a bowl. Next, pour the flour in a shallow pan and whisk in the salt, pepper, sugar, paprika, cayenne, dry mustard, and baking soda.

Remove the turkey cutlets from the brine and pat dry. Dip each cutlet in the milk-egg mixture, then immediately dredge them in the seasoned flour. Place on a wire rack and repeat with remaining cutlets.

When the oil is hot, fry the turkey cutlets until golden brown and cooked through, flipping once after 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer the fried turkey cutlets to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Meanwhile, butter the top and bottom halves of the hamburgers buns, then toast them on a hot skillet. Place two pickle chips on the bottom bun and top with a turkey cutlet. Cover with the top half of the bun and enjoy. Serves 4

3. Turkey-Leg Gumbo

The spicy, piquant flavor of this gumbo is worth the wait. Tess Rousey

Whether you’re simmering the stock or stirring the roux, making a good gumbo is a slow-paced affair. Add the extra time it takes to break down the tough meat of a wild-turkey leg and this recipe may take you all day. But trust me, its spicy, piquant flavor more than justifies the wait. Just be sure to have an ice-cold Abita on hand to cool the tongue afterward.


For the gumbo:

2 quarts of chicken stock

1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes

½ lb. andouille or smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch thick

Turkey-Leg Gumbo ingredients. Tess Rousey

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Salt turkey legs liberally.

Add the bacon grease to a large Dutch oven or heavy roaster set to medium-high. When the grease is hot, brown the turkey legs one at a time. Add the onion quarters to the roaster and enough water to submerge the meat a little more than halfway. Place the lid on the Dutch oven, or seal the roaster tightly with foil, and place it in the oven. Braise for 3 hours, or until the turkey-leg meat pulls easily from the bone.

Transfer the legs to a cutting board and strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding any solids. Reserve the stock for the gumbo. Separate the meat from the tendons and shred it with a fork or fingers.

For the gumbo:

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add enough flour to make a thick paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux turns golden brown.

Add the celery, carrots, and onion, and cook until just tender. Pour in the reserved turkey stock and enough chicken stock to make 1 gallon, then stir in the canned tomatoes, cayenne, kosher salt, Worcestershire, and white pepper. Raise the heat to nearly boiling, then lower it to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes. Finish with the sliced sausage and turkey meat, and cook for another 15 minutes, until everything is hot. Serve with white rice and Tabasco sauce. Serves 4

4. Gobbler Empanadas

A wild take on the South American classic. Tess Rousey

Meat wrapped in dough is fan-favorite street food around the world, but in Argentina, empanadas are practically the national dish. This recipe replaces the usual Argentine beef with shredded turkey-thigh meat, but keep the traditional boiled eggs and green olives for an authentic, albeit wild, take on the South American classic.


6–8 green olives with pimentos, chopped

Gobbler Empanadas ingredients. Tess Rousey

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, bring the chicken stock to a light boil. Then, drop in the turkey thighs, along with the two bay leaves, and lower the heat to barely a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thighs reaches 155 degrees. Remove the thighs from the stock, let cool and, using your fingers, tear the meat into shreds.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet set over medium-high. Add the grated onion and sauté until soft. Stir in the tomato paste, along with the smoked paprika, cumin, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, then add the chopped olives and pimentos, boiled eggs, and shredded turkey.

Lay the puff pastry sheet on a counter lightly dusted with flour. Using an upturned bowl, cut the sheet into 6-inch rounds. Place 1 to 2 Tbsp. of the empanada filling onto each round. Brush the edge of the pastry with egg wash and fold over. Seal the edges by pinching them together or crimping with a fork. Make a small slit in the top of each empanada, and brush it with the remaining egg wash. Arrange the empanadas on a baking sheet and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Serves 4

5. Turkey–Tomato Sausage

Do not let grocery-store ground turkey turn you off to this old favorite. Tess Rousey

Grocery-store ground turkey gets a bad wrap as a poor alternative for beef, but making your own ground meat from a wild turkey’s legs and thighs is a great way to respect the resource. There’s a lot of meat on a bird’s lower half, and peeling the quarters off is simple. Admittedly, the toughest part is separating the meat from the many tendons on the drumsticks, but it is well worth the effort.


3 lb. ground turkey (leg and thigh meat)

1 8 oz. jar of sun-dried tomatoes, diced

¼ cup packed, chopped spinach

1 cup ice water, as needed

Turkey–Tomato Sausage ingredients. Tess Rousey

Combine the turkey and pork in a large tub. Whisk the dry ingredients together and distribute them evenly over the meat. Add the onion, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach, and mix everything together thoroughly. Grind the meat through the grinder’s coarse plate, followed by a second grind through the fine plate.

Using a meat mixer or your hands, mix the sausage thoroughly, adding ice water as needed, until the ground meat starts to get sticky and bind. You may need to add more water, a little at a time, until a fistful of meat squeezes through your fingers.

Rinse and soak the hog casings, following the directions on the package.

Load the meat into a sausage stuffer, or a grinder fitted with a stuffing tube, and stuff the meat into the hog casings. Measure the sausage into 6-inch lengths, twisting every other 6 inches to form links. Hang or place the links on racks in a refrigerator overnight to dry and to let the flavors develop.

Poach or grill the sausages to an internal temperature of 155 degrees. Serves 4

6. Tom Scallopini

Turkey breasts are perfect for pan-frying. Tess Rousey

When cut and pounded into thin medallions, turkey breasts are a natural for a light breading and panfry. Cultures around the globe have perfected this way of preparing chicken, veal, and, yes, even turkey, whether for schnitzel, piccata, or parma. But an Italian scallopini is tough to beat. If you’re lucky enough to have morels on hand, sub them in here, but any edible mushroom will do.


¼ cup Madeira or other dry cooking wine

Fresh thyme and parsley, chopped

Tom Scallopini ingredients. Tess Rousey

Make a brine by whisking the sugar and salt in hot water until dissolved. Let the brine cool. Place the turkey breast in the cooled brine, then refrigerate and soak overnight.

Cut the turkey breast crosswise into three to four pieces about inches thick. Wrap each piece of turkey in plastic wrap and use a meat mallet, rolling pin, or the bottom of a heavy skillet to pound them into cutlets about ¼ inch thick.

Set a cast-iron skillet, or a heavy ovenproof skillet, over medium heat. Add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to the pan. On a shallow plate or pie pan, whisk the flour and salt and pepper to taste. Then, dredge the turkey in flour, shake off the excess, and place each piece in the hot pan. Cook, turning once every 8 minutes or so, until both sides are lightly browned. Cook in batches, adding more olive oil as necessary. Transfer the cutlets to a plate in a warm oven.

Add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil to the pan, along with the garlic, mushrooms, and shallots. Stir and let cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the wine and stock to the pan. Raise the heat to a simmer, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir in the lemon juice and chopped herbs. Add the cutlets back into the pan, making sure they are covered in the liquid. Serve over cooked pasta and top with shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Serves 4

7. Saffron-and-Yogurt Turkey Skewers

The exotic spice matches well with the smooth tang of Greek yogurt. Tess Rousey

The sweet grassiness of the world’s most exotic spice pairs perfectly with the smooth tang of Greek yogurt. As a bonus, the dairy’s enzymes help break down tough muscle fibers as the meat marinates overnight. If you don’t have saffron, a teaspoon of turmeric will do in pinch.


2 lb. turkey breast and thigh meat

1 small pinch saffron threads

Saffron-and-Yogurt Tom Skewers ingredients. Tess Rousey

In a medium bowl, crush the saffron and dissolve it into the hot water. Add the onion, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and yogurt. Whisk to blend well.

Cut the turkey breasts and thighs into 1-inch square chunks. Place the meat in a zip-top bag and pour the saffron-yogurt mixture over. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible, and refrigerate overnight.

Start a pile of charcoal briquettes, or pre-heat your propane grill to medium-high. As the grill heats, thread the turkey onto skewers. Oil the grill grates with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil, then place the skewers on the hot grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until the turkey is cooked through, for about 10 minutes. Serves 4

Grilling tip: The sugar in the yogurt can burn quickly and make a mess of your grill. Do as they do in the Middle East and suspend the skewers over the fire by placing each end on a brick.

Fertilizer (4 Hours):
Mixed Herb and Earth

Flour (4 Hours):
Wheat and Stone

Fine Powder (5 Hours):
Charcoal and Salt Peter

Paste (5 Hours):
Dust and Oil

Cement (8 Hours):
Stone and Clay

Glass (8 Hours):
Sand and also Fire

Dough (8 Hours):
Flour and Water

Limestone (8 Hours):
Seashell and Stone

Magic Concentrate (8 Hours):
Magic and Magic

Worm (8 Hours):
Fertilizer and Bacteria

Jumping and (10 Hours):
Magic Concentrate and Air

Forge Bucket (10 Hours):
Ceramic and Clay

Planting Soil (10 Hours):
Red Earth and Moss

Hardened Glass (10 Hours):
Glass and Glass

Clay Pot (10 Hours):
Soft Pot and Fire

Boom Powder (10 Hours):
Fine Powder and Sulfur

Boom Stick (10 Hours):
Boom Powder and Bamboo

Unpolished Mirror (10 Hours):
Hardened Glass and Clay

Red Paint (10 Hours):
Paste and Rose

Blue Paint (10 Hours):
Paste and Blueberry

Green Paint (10 Hours):
Paste and Moss

Ceramic (12 Hours):
Limestone and also Cement

Mini Eggs (12 Hours):
Bacteria and Pond Water

Sulfur (12 Hours):
Fertilizer and Limestone

Green Butterfly (24 Hours):
Mixed Herb and Worm

Orange Butterfly (24 Hours):
Orange and Worm

Blue Butterfly (24 Hours):
Blueberry and Worm

Red Butterfly (24 Hours):
Strawberry and Worm


There are many measures of centrality which are meant to help identify the most important vertices in a graph. As these measures are common in graph theory, this section attempts to demonstrate how some of these different indicators can be calculated using Gremlin.

Degree Centrality

Degree centrality is a measure of the number of edges associated to each vertex. The following examples use the modern toy graph:

Calculation of degree centrality which counts all incident edges on each vertex to include those that are both incoming and outgoing.

Calculation of in-degree centrality which only counts incoming edges to a vertex.

Calculation of out-degree centrality which only counts outgoing edges from a vertex.

The previous examples all produce a single Map as their output. While that is a desirable output, producing a stream of Map objects can allow some greater flexibility.

For example, use of a stream enables use of an ordered limit that can be executed in a distributed fashion in OLAP traversals.

Betweeness Centrality

Betweeness centrality is a measure of the number of times a vertex is found between the shortest path of each vertex pair in a graph. Consider the following graph for demonstration purposes:

Starting from each vertex in the graph…​

…​traverse on both - incoming and outgoing - edges, avoiding cyclic paths.

Create a triple consisting of the first vertex, the last vertex and the length of the path between them.

Determine whether a path between those two vertices was already found.

If this is the first path between the two vertices, store the triple in an internal collection named "triples".

Keep only those paths between a pair of vertices that have the same length as the first path that was found between them.

Select all shortest paths and unfold them.

Count the number of occurrences of each vertex, which is ultimately its betweeness score.

Closeness Centrality

Closeness centrality is a measure of the distance of one vertex to all other reachable vertices in the graph. The following examples use the modern toy graph:

Defines a Gremlin sack with a value of one.

Traverses on both - incoming and outgoing - edges, avoiding cyclic paths.

Create a triple consisting of the first vertex, the last vertex and the length of the path between them.

Determine whether a path between those two vertices was already found.

If this is the first path between the two vertices, store the triple in an internal collection named "triples".

Keep only those paths between a pair of vertices that have the same length as the first path that was found between them.

For each vertex divide 1 by the product of the lengths of all shortest paths that start with this particular vertex.

Eigenvector Centrality

A calculation of eigenvector centrality uses the relative importance of adjacent vertices to help determine their centrality. In other words, unlike degree centrality the vertex with the greatest number of incident edges does not necessarily give it the highest rank. Consider the following example using the Grateful Dead graph:

The traversal iterates through each vertex in the graph and for each one repeatedly group counts each vertex that passes through using the vertex as the key. The Map of this group count is stored in a variable named "m". The out() traversal is repeated thirty times or until the paths are exhausted. Five iterations should provide enough time to converge on a solution. Calling cap('m') at the end simply extracts the Map side-effect stored in "m".

The entries in the Map are then iterated and sorted with the top ten most central vertices presented as output.

The previous examples can be expanded on a little bit by including a time limit. The timeLimit() prevents the traversal from taking longer than one hundred milliseconds to execute (the previous example takes considerably longer than that). While the answer provided with the timeLimit() is not the absolute ranking, it does provide a relative ranking that closely matches the absolute one. The use of timeLimit() in certain algorithms (e.g. recommendations) can shorten the time required to get a reasonable and usable result.

PageRank Centrality

While not technically a recipe, it’s worth noting here in the "Centrality Section" that PageRank centrality can be calculated with Gremlin with the pageRank()-step which is designed to work with GraphComputer (OLAP) based traversals.

Excel offers 3 levels of "protection":

  • Document: allows you to set a password on a complete spreadsheet, allowing changes to be made only when that password is entered.
  • Worksheet: offers other security options: you can disallow inserting rows on a specific sheet, disallow sorting, .
  • Cell: offers the option to lock/unlock a cell as well as show/hide the internal formula.

Make sure you enable worksheet protection if you need any of the worksheet or cell protection features! This can be done using the following code:


An example on setting document security:

Note that there are additional methods setLockRevision and setRevisionsPassword which apply only to change tracking and history for shared workbooks.


An example on setting worksheet security:

If writing Xlsx files you can specify the algorithm used to hash the password before calling setPassword() like so:

The salt should not be set manually and will be automatically generated when setting a new password.

An example on setting cell security:

The Recipes Project

In a 2015 episode of Turn, a US Revolutionary War TV drama on AMC, George Washington’s spy Abraham Woodhull uses a special ink made with alum to write secret messages under the shells of hard-boiled eggs. The technique was also advertised on the show’s Twitter in 2014, a year before the episode aired (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Teaser tweet before the airing of the episode. Image via AMC Twitter.

Turn is based on a 2006 book by Alexander Rose called Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, but there is no mention in the book of any such technique. Instead, it seems to come from a 2009 book by John A. Nagy, Invisible Ink: Spycraft of the American Revolution. That book describes an ink that is able to permeate the shell of a hard-boiled egg, leaving the message hidden inside and no trace of writing on the shell. It is not attributed to George Washington and his spies, however, but to Giambattista della Porta. Nagy writes:

“In the fifteenth century Italian scientist Giovanni Porta described how to conceal a message in a hard-boiled egg. An ink is made with an ounce of alum and a pint of vinegar. This special penetrating ink is then used to write on the hard-boiled egg shell. The solution penetrates the shell leaving no visible trace and is deposited on the surfaced of the hardened egg. When the shell is removed, the message can be read.” (John A. Nagy, Invisible Ink: Spycraft of the American Revolution, 2009: 7)

Nagy’s account of della Porta’s recipe seems in turn to have come from 1999 book by Simon Singh called The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography. Singh, however, leaves it unclear whether the egg is to be hard-boiled or raw when one writes on it:

“In the fifteenth century, the Italian scientist Giovanni Porta described how to conceal a message within a hard-boiled egg by making an ink from a mixture of one ounce of alum and a pint of vinegar, and then using it to write on the shell. The solution penetrates the porous shell, and leaves a message on the surface of the hardened egg albumen, which can be read only when the shell is removed.” (Simon Singh, The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography, 1999: 10)

Singh’s description of della Porta’s recipe only appears in the first edition of The Code Book. In later editions it is missing without comment. The reason might be found by reading della Porta himself, who in Book 16 chapter 4 of his Natural Magic mentions the technique, but neither claims to have invented it nor to have gotten it to work:

“Africanus teaches thus: ‘grind [oak] galls and alum with vinegar, until they have the viscosity of ink. With it, inscribe whatever you want on the egg and once the writing has been dried by the sun, place the egg in sharp brine, and having dried it, cook it, peel, and you will find the inscription.’ I put it in vinegar and nothing happened, unless by ‘brine’, he meant sharp lye, what’s normally called capitellum” (della Porta, Magia Naturalis 16.4: Latin 1590, English 1658)

Della Porta attributes the recipe to Africanus, probably Sextus Julius Africanus, a 2nd–3rd century CE traveler, writer and chronicler, whose recipe for an egg-permeating ink is preserved in the 10th century Greek compilation known as the Geoponica, of which della Porta’s recipe is a literal Latin translation. Unlike Singh’s or Nagy’s recipe, della Porta’s includes oak gall (an ingredient often found in inks as a pigment) and lacks precise measurements.

The measurements and techniques described by Singh seem similar to a recipe printed on page 143 of the 1973 New Earth Catalogue (Figures 2 and 3):

Figure 2: The New Earth Catalogue: Living Here and Now, ed. Scott French and Gnu Publishing, New York: Putnam Berkley Press, 1973. Image via MareMagnum.

Figure 3: P. 143 (detail, via Google Books Snippet View) of The New Earth Catalog: Living Here and Now. This recipe uses half the amount of vinegar. It also mentions that a small brush is to be used and says to boil the egg for 15 minutes. None of these details are in Singh’s or in della Porta’s version.

This recipe shares a strong family resemblance to a one published by the USDA in 1965, whose purpose was to get children to eat more eggs. We know this because the USDA’s suggestion was picked up by the New York Times and published on page 14 of the 29 May 1965 issue (Figure 4):

Figure 4: P. 14 (detail) of 29 May 1965 New York Times with an invisible ink recipe attributed to the USDA.

Sometime between 10 and 20 years earlier, either in 1946 or 1959, a similar version similarly targeted to children was published in volume 14 of Richards Topical Encyclopedia, an encyclopedia ordered by theme that was sold door to door in the US (Figure 5).

Figure 5: P. 136 (detail) of volume 14 of Richards Topical Encyclopedia, published either in 1946 or 1959.

Another 10 (or 20) years before that, we find the recipe on page 58 and 132 of the February 1936 issue of American Druggist. A reader from Oregon asks for the recipe of a solution used to mark eggs. The editor replies that the “trick” is described ‘in Henley’s “Book of Recipes”.’ (Figure 6)

Figure 6: P. 58 and 132 (detail) of February 1936 issue of American Druggist.

The editor’s recipe is not obviously the one “Oregon” was after (it includes neither sugar nor acid) but the details are familiar: 1 oz alum, 8 oz (= 1 cup = 1/2 pint) vinegar, a small, pointed brush, 15 minutes boiling. Some details are new: we’re told the brush should be camel’s hair (I will come back to this in the sequel).

The editor of American Druggist also gives a source: Henley’s “Book of Recipes”. The Norman W. Henley Publishing company was active in the United States in the early 20th century and beginning in 1907 published almost yearly editions of an extremely popular book of household recipes: Henley’s Twentieth Century Book of Recipes, Formulas and Processes: Containing Nearly Ten Thousand Selected Scientific, Chemical, Technical and Household Recipes, Formulas and Processes for Use in the Laboratory, the Office, the Workshop and in the Home By Gardner D. Hiscox.

I checked the 1907 edition of Henley’s, but found nothing. I continued looking for references to the recipe closer in time to the American Druggist issue to refine the search. I found two earlier instances: page 97 of the January 1930 issue of Popular Science, and (slightly earlier) page 110 of the September 1929 issue of Field and Stream, where it is referred to as ‘an old hex trick’ (Figures 7 and 8):

Figure 7: P. 97 (detail) of January 1930 issue of Popular Science. Figure 8: 1985 reprint of p. 110 of September 1929 issue of Field and Stream.

If Henley’s was the ultimate source, the recipe had to have appeared sometime before 1929. I checked the 1925 edition, but it was nowhere to be found. The next edition was published in 1929, the same years as the Field and Stream recipe. There it was on page 786 (Figures 9 and 10):

Figure 9: P. 786 (detail) of Henley’s, the 1925 edition. No recipe. Figure 10: P. 786 (detail) of Henley’s, the 1929 edition, with the earliest version the author could find of this recipe.

The recipe contains many of the characteristics of the one that has been passed down in American lore and attributed in one form or another to George Washington’s spies or Giambattista della Porta: 1 oz. alum, ½ pint vinegar, a small brush, 15 minutes of boiling.

Given the reach of Henley’s “Book of Recipes” in the US, this is not surprising. But Henley’s recipe also lacks a key ingredient from the recipe that della Porta attributed to Africanus: oak gall. How and when this ingredient dropped out from a recipe reliably passed down for over a thousand years is another story.

This post continues a study of how a 3rd century recipe for a magic ink, despite the fact that it probably never worked, still managed to work its way into American popular culture in the 20th and 21st centuries. An earlier part of the study is posted here.

A valuable ancient commodity: Miltos of Kea

The island of Kea in the North Cyclades is by some travel agents’ reckoning the (rich) Athenians’ ‘best-kept secret’, their beautifully-designed stone-built villas merging seamlessly with the barren landscape overlooking the blue Aegean Sea (Fig 1).

Fig. 1 Private house in Orkos, looking east. To the SE on can see the island of Kythnos. (c) Effie Photos-Jones

The scenery is even more spectacular in the south and in the east of the island. Although sparsely populated today, this area was from the mid of the 19 th century and well into the early part of the 20 th century, a hive of activity, on account of the extensive underground workings of the seams of lead and iron ores. Today, miners’ cottages stand derelict, perhaps waiting for a buyer to convert them into holiday homes. But the ground underneath Petroussa, Orkos or Trypospilies (Fig 2 map) is riddled with galleries, some dating as early as the 4 th century BCE. These early galleries were opened with one aim in mind: to access miltos (Fig. 3c).

Fig. 2. A map of Kea with its four ancient city states and the miltos names Orkos, Petroussa, Trypospilies. (c) Effie Photos-Jones

The material they called miltos is a composite one consisting of naturally fine iron oxides (hematite/goethite) with small amounts of calcite, quartz and clay minerals. It made its first appearance in the Bronze Age Linear B clay tablets as mi-to-we-sa. The Mycenaeans, acutely aware of colours, had many names for red, miltos being, we think, a red with a deep purple hue. It would be many centuries before Kea miltos would surface again in the literary record, always as the colour red but also as a whole host of materials whose colour merited that name. In the 4 th century BCE Theophrastus (On Stones, 52) tells us that builders and joiners used it to draw a line with, workers in shipyards used it for ship maintenance and if the miltos came from the island of Lemnos, then it was used as a medicine, as well, and against ‘poison’.

From the above it is clear that miltos was a valuable commodity. But how valuable? An Athenian decree carved on a marble inscription found in the Athenian Agora and dated c. 360 BCE tells us exactly how valuable. The decree was issued by Athens to all the three city states of Kea (Ioulis, Korisseia and Karthaia (Fig. 2) requiring each one of them to export miltos in its entirety from their respective mines, exclusively to Athens also for the Keans to bear the charges for the transport and only in an Athenian boat! The tone is severe and the penalties dire. The decree appears to openly invite a slave to denounce his master, if the latter is suspected of selling his miltos to a third party. It stipulates that the slave would be gaining not only his freedom but would also receive half of his masters’ estate!

Another contemporary inscription, more informative than severe, also from Athens mentions miltos mixed with pitch, the miltopissa. And at an even later date (3 rd century CE), the author of an agricultural manual, recommends miltos for pest control. It suggests miltos should be smeared around the roots of trees ‘to prevent trees and vines from being harmed by worms or anything else’.

So what was the rationale behind all these diverse uses of miltos? was it a case of ‘since we have it …we might as well use it!’ or did antiquity have a more subtle understanding of this valuable natural material which has so far eluded us? We have been investigating….

As was mentioned miltos consists of very fine iron oxides with particle sizes ranging in the nanosized range. There are also impurities of lead, zinc, copper and arsenic within. But beyond its mineral components, Kean miltos also had an organic load. By that we mean microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and other which live around miltos, are feeding on miltos and also alter the environment around it (Fig 3). We became aware of these microorganisms through DNA sequencing of the miltos samples. Given that red Kean miltos was never heated but used in the ‘as was’ state it is almost certain that these microorganisms would have been carried along with the minerals. When the microorganisms died, they would release biomolecules (secondary metabolites), many of which are known to have numerous beneficial properties, as antibacterials, antifungals, antioxidants or other.

The diagram below (Fig. 4) gives a schematic illustration of the dual nature of Kean miltos, as a combination of both a biotic (microorganisms and biomolecules) and an abiotic (elements, nanoparticles, minerals) component. It is the ‘intersection’ between the two components that gives rise to miltos’ diverse applications.

Fig. 4. Miltos’ diverse properties deriving from their biotic and abiotic components. (c) Effie Photos-Jones

When miltos is mixed with resin or pitch and applied on wood it is the toxic trace elements within which would inhibit the growth of deleterious biofilms. The same mixture could be used as pest control, by preventing the growth of microorganisms/ insects threatening tree health. If on the other hand, when miltos was mixed with water, the toxic trace elements within, mostly insoluble, would have little effect. Instead, it would be its biome, in the shape of bacteria which help the growth of plants, by making nutrients bioavailable at the root level, which would render miltos a good fertiliser. In short, each application appears, to have called upon and with confidence, either the biotic or abiotic component of miltos depending on the ‘problem’ at hand. No wonder the Athenians were taking no chances with the Keans and their miltos.

We have for long considered miltos a good and ‘special’ red pigment. But all along, it has been way more than that. The Athenians had made a shrewd assessment of this natural material and as an all-powerful city state they imposed their might on their allies. With the demise of the Athenian hegemony in the region, the importance of Kean miltos faded only to give prominence to that of Cappadocia traded through its Black Sea port of Sinope (Sinopic miltos).

Lytle, E. (2013). Farmers Into Sailors: Ship Maintenance, Greek Agriculture, and the Athenian Monopoly on Kean Ruddle (IG II 2 1128). Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 53(3), 520-550.

Photos-Jones, E., Cottier, A., Hall, A. J., & Mendoni, L. G. (1997). Kean Miltos: The well-known iron oxides of antiquity. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 92, 359-371.

Photos-Jones, E. et al. (2018). Greco-Roman mineral (litho) therapeutics and their relationship to their microbiome: The case of the red pigment miltos. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 22, 179-192.

EPJ is a Senior Honorary Researcher at the University of Glasgow at the Schools of Humanities and of Earth and Geographical Sciences. She has been researching the metals and industrial minerals of the Greco-Roman world for over 40 years and more recently their pharmacological applications

Cherries Galore in a Cesspit

As an archaeobotanist, an archaeologist specialised in studying plant remains found in archaeological excavations, I aim to reconstruct and interpret the relationships between humans and plants in the past. Archaeological plant remains, also known as subfossil plant remains, help us to reconstruct the former landscape and inform us how humans exploited it and even transformed the vegetation. Archaeobotanists do not necessarily study one time period, nor a specific region or topic. They can study plant remains from the Palaeolithic or the 20 th century, and everything in between. They can focus on one specific site, work across the country or continent, and even work worldwide. They can delve into topics such as natural vegetation, forestation, domestication, trade, food consumption and much more. The one thing that all of this has in common is the link between humans and plants. But most archaeobotanists do specialize, most notably in the plant parts they study, such as fruits, seeds, pollen, wood or phytoliths. And most archaeobotanists have a beloved time period, favourite region or topic that they find most intriguing. In my case my research focuses on early modern Dutch urban food consumption.

I study what people ate in early modern Dutch cities, and how this changed through time. The best way to study what people ate in the past, is to look at their excrement and kitchen refuse, both of which can be found in the archaeologists treasure trove: the cesspit. These latrines were used to empty one’s bowels, but also served as a place to discard kitchen refuse and household waste. The content of a cesspit consists of organic remains from plants and animals, inorganic (culinary) material culture such as earthenware, glassware and ceramics, but also wooden cups and plates, as well as (decorative) objects, personal belongings and much, much more.

Figure 1: A selection of faunal and floral items found in a late medieval cesspit sample from Groningen. Photo: Dirk Fennema.

The content of an archaeobotanical cesspit sample consists of, among others, floral remains in different shapes and sizes (Figure 1). The items are sorted with the use of a microscope (Figure 2) and identified on a species level (and sometimes even on the level of species variety) by using a reference collection (Figure 3). The Groningen Institute of Archaeology offers a wonderful digital, open access, reference collection, see

Figure 2: A peek through the microscope. Visible is a fragment of text and different seeds and fruits, taken from an early modern Delft cesspit sample. Photo: Merit Hondelink.

When the content of a cesspit sample is analysed, sorted and identified, the interpretation begins. What can these plant remains tell us about past human-plant relationships? Most plant species are interpreted in a standardized way: wild plants inform us about the vegetation composition, make-up of soils and hydrology, whilst agricultural weeds in particular inform us about the crops grown and their local, regional, international or even global provenance. Wild but poisonous or toxic plants inform us about potential medicinal applications. A majority of plant species found in cesspits are classified as economic plants, grown as a food crop or cultivated for other useful purposes, such as fibres for textiles or seeds for oil. Identifying edible plants helps us better understand what plants people used for food and which parts people consumed. It also helps us better understand how food was prepared in the past, as preparation marks can be left behind on seeds and fruits.

Some preparation marks are easier to identify than others: nuts need to be cracked to get to the seed apple seeds may be sliced when cutting up an apple, cereals can be ground, resulting into fragmented bran. But sometimes the archaeobotanist finds fragmented plant parts that, at a first glance, do not make sense.

Figure 3: A small selection of the tubes from the archaeobotany reference collection housed at the Groningen Institute of Archaeology (GIA) at the University of Groningen. Photo via GIA.

I have come across dozens and sometimes hundreds (or even more) cherry stones and plum stones in a single cesspit sample. No surprise there, cherries and plums were grown in local orchards, sold in the market and consumed with gusto. Most of these stones will have been discarded in the cesspit as a result from eating the fruits and spitting out the stones, or after de-pitting the fruits for dinner preparation. Only a small percentage is assumed to have been accidentally swallowed and secreted as excrement. Still, archaeobotanists find many fragments of cherry and plum stones (Figure 4). This is something that raises questions when you think about it. Why would these sturdy fruit stones be fragmented? A more pressing question when you are aware that the Rosaceae family, among others also including almond, peach, and even apple, contains – to varying degrees – hydrocyanic acid, also known as hydrogen cyanide and sometimes called prussic acid. The seed coat and fruit wall protects the consumer from digesting this acid, which can be poisonous when consumed. So why would someone break the stones of these fruits?

Figure 4: Two fragments of cherry stones found in an early modern cesspit in Vlissingen. Photo: Merit Hondelink.

To test the assumption that cherry stones were fragmented intentionally, and not through, for instance, pressure, an experiment was devised. Cherries were bought at the farmer’s market and taken to a physics lab to measure the pressure required to fragment the stones. After a number of tests, the calculated force to fragment a cherry stone averaged 23,9 kg or 239 Newton (Graph 1). This makes it more plausible that the stones were intentionally fragmented, as opposed to – for instance – fragmentation due to soil pressure.

Graph 1: Force needed to fragment a cherry stone. On the vertical axis the force (N), on the horizontal axis the elongation (μm). The point where the line falls is the moment the cherry stone breaks (max. force – max. elongation).

Consulting early modern cookbooks provided me with a list of recipes requiring the cook to de-stone cherries for the preparation of jams, sauces, syrups and tarts. Delicious experiments ensued, but I did not manage to fragment cherry stones whilst cutting and de-stoning, pressing through a cloth or colander, or by just baking the fruit with stones in a tart in the oven. Working a batch of cherries with a mortar and pestle did the job, though. But than you would have to pick the fragmented stones from the mushy cherries: not ideal at all. Picking up the eighteenth century encyclopaedia compiled by Noël Chomel gave me the hint I needed. In the Dutch version of his Dictionnaire œconomique (Algemeen huishoudelijk-, natuur-, zedekundig- en konst- woordenboek), he mentions different recipes for preparing cherries. Two recipes for cherry liquor instruct the reader to fragment the cherry stones by using a mortar and pestle (Figure 5). The fragmented fruits, including the stones and (I assume) the seeds are added to the brandy (Dutch: brandewijn) and, after closing the bottle, the mixture is put in the sun to infuse. Adding spices such as cinnamon, cloves and sugar is optional, according to the author.

Figure 5: How to make a pleasant cherry liquor (Noël Chomel, 1778).

So, it is plausible that the fragmented cherry stones found in early modern cesspits are the result of the domestic production of cherry liquor. Other fruits, such as plums and peaches, are also used to make a fruity liquor according to Chomel’s encyclopedia. However, what happens to the acid contained in the seeds? That requires further research. It might be that the prescribed infusing in the sunlight helps denature the acid into harmless molecules, leaving only the (bitter) taste behind. This line of research will be undertaken come summer with the aid of a brewer and some chemical analysis. In the meantime, a cherry and cinnamon flavoured lemonade is my poison of choice. Bottoms up!

A Roman Vegetarian Substitute for Fish Sauce

Roman cookery has been one of my research interests since the 1980s I’ve accumulated a large repertoire of ancient recipes and usually do at least one live demonstration a year. Most of the recipes include garum or liquamen – fish sauce – as a taste enhancer, providing salt and umami. Whilst finding fish sauce is fairly easy nowadays in Britain (the Romans used the same techniques to make it as the modern Thai and Vietnamese), using it at demonstrations disappoints vegetarians who would otherwise like to sample the plant-based dishes.

I found the answer to this problem in a Late Antique agricultural treatise:

Liquamen from pears: Ritually pure liquamen (liquamen castimoniale) from pears is made like this: Very ripe pears are trodden with salt that has not been crushed. When their flesh has broken down, store it either in small casks or in earthenware vessels lined with pitch. When it is hung up [to drain] after the third month without being pressed on, the flesh of the pears discharges a liquid with a delicious taste but a pastel colour. To counter this, mix in a proportion of dark-coloured wine when you salt the pears.
– Palladius: Opus Agriculturae 3.25.12

Liquamen castimoniale must have been required for people observing certain religious strictures (castimoniale means ‘to do with religious ceremonies’). Why would ordinary liquamen have been thought unsuitable? Was it the fish? (Pliny the Elder writes of a special fish sauce for Jews (Natural History 31.95) that he calls garum castimoniarum, although he’s obviously got the wrong end of the stick when it comes to Jewish food laws because he says it’s made using fish without scales). Alternatively, was it because liquamen was the product of fermentation? Fermentation was often considered a form of decomposition, which might have led it to be regarded as ritually unclean.

This has a bearing on how we interpret the recipe. Although Palladius tells us the ingredients to use (whole pears and salt, plus optional red wine) he does not give any information about the relative proportions. This leaves us with two possible techniques. Either you use a high proportion of salt and effectively create a brine utilising the juice of the pears, or you use a low proportion and promote a lactic fermentation by incubating the mix a suitable temperature (although Palladius doesn’t mention this). When used to flavour food, the product of the first method adds a strong taste of salt but no umami. The second would add some umami but also acidity, but a much lower amount of salt. However, if the problem was the fermentation itself, the second method would have been as unacceptable as standard fish sauce.

I’ve had a go at the lactic fermentation method, using 2% of the weight of the pears in salt, but when I tried it, the mix went mouldy before fermentation had a chance to take hold. I’ve had much more success with the first method and have repeated it enough times to get a consistent product. The best pears to use are juicy varieties with very tannic skins, like Williams (also known as Bartlett) and Comice. I mash up the pears – stalks, skins, cores and all – mix them with 25% – 50% of their weight in coarse sea salt (I don’t bother with the wine), and leave them at the back of the fridge in a glass jar with the lid only lightly screwed on. At the end of two months (unlike us, the Romans counted inclusively), the pulp has started to separate out. The heavier elements form a pale layer at the bottom of the jar, whilst the top part of the mixture is more liquid and is a pale pinkish-brown. When drained through a nylon sieve, the colour of the resulting liquid is a very pale version of the colour of fish sauce.

I’ve tried various proportions of salt, and found that, if you use 50%, you seem to get more liquid, probably because the mixture doesn’t draw in moisture from the air to the same extent. But a smaller percentage of salt allows more of the delightful pear flavour comes through – I find it much more difficult to detect in the 50% version. Stored in a clean bottle it will keep for months without refrigeration.

Figure 1: The pear liqumen is in the flask with dark blue trim

Watch the video: Δίπλωμα πετσέτας u0026 χαρτοπετσέτας για τραπέζι (August 2022).