Once a Luxury
Pepper, which was imported from India along with ginger and cinnamon, was once a luxury product. But in Miriam’s time, with accumulating knowledge of maritime wind patterns, the price dropped. And so pepper became the most important vegetable raw material imported from beyond the empire.
In The Deadliest Lie, we see how much Miriam and Phoebe enjoyed the spicy foods they’d order when celebrating favorite occasions at the Flamingo’s Tongue:
We’d order dishes like pickled cauliflower and lentil soup with buttered caraway muffins. The spicy flavors would burst on our tongues before melding into a savory mixture, rolling down our throats, and flowering in our chests. Still, we’d save room for their signature dish, marinated flamingo tongues in a spicy pepper sauce, a delicacy impossible to find elsewhere in the city.
A study of the most famous cookbooks of the time shows that next to honey, bay leaves, and coriander, pepper was the most widely used spice, especially in sauces. But pepper also had medical uses. Black pepper was used for treating pharyngitis and serving as a diuretic, and white pepper was used for treating eye diseases and snake bites.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go to the Flamingo’s Tongue to get an idea of spicy Roman dishes. Instead, you can encounter them in The Deadliest Lie and the other Miriam bat Isaac mysteries. Just click here.