Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Agrippina's Delight! (Formerly Claudius' Delight) An appetizer or a last meal?

Today we are have a vegetarian dish taken from Suetonius' 'The Deified Claudius' section 64, with a little help from Tacitus and the Apocolocyntosis! So, we enter the story when Claudius' devious, devious wife, Agrippina, has just poisoned Claudius to death. "At a family dinner party, Agrippina herself served drugged mushrooms to Claudius, who was extravagantly fond of such dishes." Oh no! That tricky lady put poison in his favorite food! So, lets cook some mushrooms ... it is up to you if you want to make them 'Claudius' Delight" - a nice appetizer, or "Agripina's Delight" - a last meal (cue spooky organ music).
Agrippina's Delight
1 pound assorted mushrooms 
Olive oil
shallot and garlic
White wine
salt and pepper
fresh basil or other herbs
1) Heat up your pan over a pretty high heat,
2) Add oil. Pretty much no matter how much oil you use, the mushrooms will absorb it like the delicious little sponges that they are. More healthy? - 2-3 Tablespoons. More Tasty? - 6 or so Tablespoons.
3) Add a tablespoon each minced shallot and garlic and cook for just a few seconds.
4) Add all the mushrooms and stir. When it seems to want to stick, add white wine. Again, how soupy you want it determines the amount. Not soupy - add it a couple tablespoons at a time. Real soupy because you are going to serve it over crusty, grilled bread - start with a half cup and go from there.
5) Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. When mushrooms are cooked, turn out onto a serving platter and squirt lemon juice on top.

Now, we need to change the recipe to give it the 'Agrippina' feel! While Suetonius specifies porcini mushrooms (how awesome is that! It really specifies the porcini, still the favorite mushroom in Italy today!), they are expensive unless you live in the West and can go hunting for them yourself. So, I use almost all the white or crimini mushrooms, except for a few whole shiitake mushrooms. These, you see, will be the poisoned ones! You could also add some diced red bell pepper to be your 'poison'.
Tacitus also specifies that Claudius ate poisoned porcini mushrooms ... but the illustrious Professor Cynthia Damon says that it is just an interpolated passage from the aforementioned Suetonus.
But wait, there's more! After eating these mushrooms, Claudius has the absolute worst last words of any man ever! (Contrast to the best: Vespasian's "I think I am becoming a god.") According to the Apocolocyntosis, Claudius' final words are, "vae me, puto, concacavi me!" - "woe is me, I think, I crapped myself!" Wonderful! The worst last words ever!
So, cook some sauteed mushrooms, but make some of them look poisoned and you have "Agrippina's Delight"!


Lew said...

Help a dummy! What's the Apolocolocyntosis? It sounds like the intestinal bacteria Claudius might have had.

Jake Morton said...

The Apocolocyntosis is an odd work by an unknown writer that combines different genres. Its is a humorous account of the death of Claudius. The title is a joke on apotheosis, which means to become a god - something emperors do at death. Apocolocyntosis is a made up word that means to become a melon. Oddly, this word is always translated as pumpkin even though pumpkins and the entire gourd family are new world crops. People, it is a melon.