Sidle up to a Stranger, But Make Sure Your Coin Purse is Secure


In The Deadliest Lie, Miriam spots her brother sitting at a table behind a tankard of henket, steamy hunks of cardamom bread, and skewers of roast lamb. He is making arrangements with his sponsor to travel to Capua, the Empire’s most famous gladiator school. She’s there under the cover of darkness to spy on him: I scooted low and in close, wrapping myself in the tails of my himation, crouching behind the charcoal-burning furnace recessed into the cookshop’s marble-topped counter, grateful for the steady fire that kept the kettle sputtering and the sharpening chill at bay. Only occasionally did I dare lift my shoulders to peek inside. Most of the homes had no kitchen so these restaurants were a necessity for the poor. Accordingly, the elite referred to them as low-class eating houses. Otherwise, they were known as thermopolia, cookshops, popinae, traverns, or pubs. Still the fare could be rather sophisticated. So, imagine you’re on a stool about to enjoy a hardy bowl of braised duck. You may have to sidle up next to a stranger, so make sure your coin purse is secure. And make sure this is your last cup of wine. But don’t worry. The braised duck and bread will sober you up enough to stagger out the door. You can join Miriam in any of these fast-food restaurants, where she is sure to share her lunch with you. Just save a morsel for the dog at the entrance and scratch his head as you depart so he won’t growl at you next time. If you’d rather avoid the dog, then to join Miriam, click here. Note: Thanks to Sari Goldman for the research for this blog.

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