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Calvin Schwabe’s ancient Roman ‘small bits stew.’

bacchanal.jpgConsistent with his custom, Schwabe does not identify a specific source for his recipe in Unmentionable Cuisine. The Editor lacks much knowledge about the cuisine of ancient Rome, but most of Schwabe’s British recipes pass the test. This description is more a miscellany than something practical to cook for most of us but if, as Schwabe speculates, “you feel very sentimental and in a nostalgic mood,” this probably would fit the bill as one course for a reconstructed Roman orgy.” Proportions and amounts, the variety of wine (although modern Romans drink white), choice of meat and breed of fish apparently matter not at all.

“Cook together in a mixture of olive oil, wine and GARUM, capon testicles, some small fish, tiny meat balls, suckling pig sweetbreads, leeks, and mint. Add pepper, coriander, a little honey, and more wine. Thicken with pieces of flour and oil.”


-Simplicity itself but for some of the ingredients. Happily enough suitable substitutes exist for some of the more uncommon items.

-Instead of garum, a favorite condiment of the ancient Romans made from fermented fish guts, use anchovy paste or an Asian fish sauce; fermentation without the poo.

-Capon testicles of course would be an oxymoron in strictest terms; perhaps they would have been the cock’s balls immediately following castration, a horrific process (the orbs on a fowl are internal) now banned by the European Union and much to be discouraged elsewhere. Substitute some chopped chicken liver or lamb kidney.

-Your sweetbreads need not come from a tiny pig; any thymus or pancreas, presumably chopped, would do.

-Whether or not you toss your fish whole, ancient style, is up to you. Squeamish orgiasts (even a possibility?) will at least gut if not head and tail theirs.

-As to the source of Schwabe’s Small Bits Stew, that remains unknown for now.