De Arte Coquinaria

Many teachers of classics include in their curriculum a unit on Roman dining, whether through reading Petronius’ Cena Trimalchonis at the upper levels, or a story inspired by this piece in Cambridge Latin Course’s Stage 32, or Ecce Romani chapters 32-34, or Lingua Latina’s Chapter 30.  Teachers may also incorporate some kind of actual Roman banquet into their year, perhaps combining it, as I do, with an awards ceremony.
What I’d like to propose in this article is to take this to the next level, and to present an idea to focus on food and cooking per se, where students will have the chance to explore in greater detail ancient foods, their preparation, stories and myths having to do with food, and at the same time be able to use Latin actively to explain an authentic activity (i.e. cooking).
Depending on the year, I use this project to fulfill a number of linguistic and cultural goals:

  • accusative case review (including in + acc vs. in + abl.)
  • commands (imperatives or subjunctives, depending on level)
  • future tense
  • purpose clauses
  • improving food and dining vocabulary
  • practicing both presentational speaking and listening skills
  • examination of herbs, plants, and animals – their mythology and relationship to food
  • exploring the Cena Trimalchionis
  • myths that include food / hospitality (Baucis and Philemon, innumerable scenes in the Aeneid, Erischthon, etc.)
  • Planning a convivium for an awards night

The idea is for students to make a video that showcases a particular recipe, perhaps in the style of a Food Network cooking series.  Students must explain in Latin (appropriate to their level) how to cook their recipe and must name all the ingredients to be used.  During the video they must also share a story that relates to some ingredient included in their dish.  My own students have done, as examples, the apple of discord, Cato’s warning to the Romans about how close Carthage is by ‘accidentally’ dropping a fresh fig from his toga in the Senate, Appius Claudius and the drowning of the sacred chickens, or a medieval story about how the Queen Elizabeth of Hungary once had her paralysis cured by a hermit who suggested she soak rosemary in wine and then rub it into her limbs.
Videos tend to be about 10 minutes long and can be quite creative!  Here’s an example from one of my Latin 3’s scripts this year (written entirely by students with some suggestions):

E: quid primum faciemus?
G: primum, calefacite furnum ad trecentesimum septuagesimum quintum gradum. deinde, farinam in catillo ponite, et salem aeratum addite. farinam et salem aeratum cochleare miscite.
E: quid tum faciemus?
G: deinde, miscite amygdalam in frusta secata, cinnamum, et ros marinum. tum miscite succum ex uvis, succum malorum granatorum, et mel in poculo. lac addite.
E:pulchre fecisti Giuditta! auxilium visne?
G: sic! (Electrae dicit) funde primam mixturam in secundam mixturam et misce. feram atroptam rotundam novem unicarum.
E: bene redolet!
G: quidem!  (omnibus dicit) nunc fundite mixturam in ferculum et triginta minutas cibum in furno coquite.
E: Malum granatum esse signum Proserpinae scisne?
G: certe?
E: sic! Quando Proserpina puella erat, Hades puellam abstulit. Hades Proserpinam in Tartarum tulit, quod Proserpinam amavit. Dum in tartaro, Proserpina sex semina mali granati edit. Ergo puella ad terram revenire non potest.

After the videos are made, students vote for the best one, which we then make, using the Latin instructions, in our school kitchen.  In past years, we’ve watched the NLE’s Forum Romanum episode on Apicius while we eat.
I hope that this sparks some ideas for using food in some way in your own classes.  Please share in the comments section anything that you’ve done or resources that you find useful when teaching about food or Roman dining customs.
iubeo te bene coquere et esse!
Further Resources

  • Piper Salve, a German neo-Latin textbook which has in the back several dialogues pertaining to cooking as well as extensive useful vocabulary.
  • Anna Andresian’s Vocabula Picta, which includes a chapter on vocabulary in the kitchen.


Spoken Latin Workshops

So you want to explore using spoken Latin in your classes? Intrigued and want to learn more? There are many opportunities to do so! The organization that has the largest number of opportunities is SALVI (Septentrionale Americanum Latinitatis Vivae Institutum). This year, they offer you 5 separate choices:
• Biduum Latinum — a weekend event designed to jump start or recharge your active Latin. 
Getty Villa, Malibu, CA (January 12-13); Claymont Mansion, Charles Town, WV (February 22-24); Clear Creek Abbey, Tulsa, OK (March 9-11).
• Academia Aestiva Latina — June 24-28, a semi-immersion event for secondary school students. 
Co-sponsored and hosted by the Getty Villa, Malibu, CA.
• Septimana Californiana — July 1-8, a full week of Latin discussions and sight-seeing excursions. 
Housed at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA.
• Rusticatio — July 4-11 AND July 18-25; a full week of classroom sessions, cooking, and playing in Latin. 
Housed at Claymont Mansion, Charles Town, WV. (2 weeks, same curriculum–Pick one!)
• Pedagogy Rusticatio (conducted in English) — July 12-17; an intensive introduction to best practices in language instruction, with guided practice sessions. 
Housed at Claymont Mansion, Charles Town, WV.
There are many other workshops and resources around the country!
Conventiculum Bostoniense
Conventiculum Lexingtoniense
Conventiculum Buffaloniense
Conventiculum Vasintoniense
I cannot recommend SALVI’s Pedagogy Rusticatio and Rusticatio enough. It is where I became a spoken Latin believer. Argue what you will, but don’t judge until you try!
Have you been to one of these programs? Do you use spoken Latin in your classes? Comment and tell us more!

Using Spoken Latin in YOUR Classroom, Pars II

In my last post, I covered some basics about speaking Latin in class. Here are some other techniques I use to get my students speaking and acquiring vocabulary.
One of my favorite boxes in class is an old copy paper box, filled to the brim with stuffed animals and fake fruit. I have so many different old stuffed animals from when I was a kid, it’s crazy. If you need stuffed animals, or fake fruit, Ikea and Michaels/ACmoore are great places to acquire such items. So I take the box, filled with all the animals, show it to the students, and say “Ecce! Est arca!” (you can also use cista! Or whatever other word you have for “box!”) I use the method I talked about in my previous post to get the students to say “Arca est.” Then, pointing to the box, I ask, “Quid est?” The students reply, “Arca est.” Have a couple students say it individually, and then have the whole class repeat it once more.
Then, I set the box down and take something out of the box, usually an adorable stuffed animal, in this case, a dog. “Ecce!” I say. “Canis est!” Have the students repeat, “Canis est.” I pick a student (Clodia, for these purposes) and offer them the dog, making it very obvious that I want them to take it. “Visne canem?” I ask. Clodia should respond with, “ita vero!” or whatever word/phrase they know for “yes.” If I get a blank stare, I ask again, “Visne canem?” and then nod my head to see if I can prompt her. Once she say “yes,” I hold the dog up in the air. “Clodia canem vult,” I tell my students. I have the class repeat, “Clodia canem vult.” Then, I set the dog on my desk and say, “Da mihi canem, quaeso.” I take the sentence and break it down, like I did in my previous post. Once I’ve got the students saying, “Da mihi canem, quaeso,” I ask Clodia to say it alone. Once she does, I give her the dog.
If a student stumbles over saying something in Latin, you can do one of a few things:
1) Have another student say it and then have the struggling student repeat it.
2) Say it yourself and have the struggling student repeat it. (Sometimes it helps to break it down for them again!)
3) Have the whole class say the sentence again and then have the struggling student repeat it.
I always remind my students that mistakes are normal and use the “Mirable!” technique to help reinforce that.
Anyway, you can keep going through the box of animals and foods. Get them handed out to students, and then have the students offer them to other students and have the other students ask for them.
This is not a one-class lesson. This one will take a few classes for your students to get it. It works really well, even if you have high-schoolers, to get them sitting in a circle, so that everyone can see the object that the other students have. (And even high-schoolers love to play with the stuffed animals!)
Enjoy this one. It’s a lot of fun! ☺