Ides of March Special – The Bloody Caesar Cocktail


A depiction of the Assassination of Caesar inside the Theatre of Pompe

Caesar:

Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer:
Beware the ides of March.

– William Shakespare

Welcome back to Delicious History – the most alcohol friendly site for historical enquiry on the internet.

Today we’re going to be drinking learning about the Bloody Caesar Cocktail – a Canadian drink that is used to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar. This cataclysmic event fell on the March 15th, also known as The Ides of March. Before we get into the alcohol soaked portion of the post though, let’s have a quick look at what the Ides of March actually is.

During Caesar’s rule he established and instituted the Julian Calendar. This was both a precursor to our modern-day calendar, as well as an hilariously self-important move on the naming front. The Julian Calendar didn’t number days of a month sequentially from the first through the last day. Instead, it counted back from three fixed points of the month – the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the Calends (1st) of the following month. The Ides occurred near the midpoint, which was the 13th for most months, but the 15th for March, May, July, and October. The Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, thus reflecting the lunar origin of the Julian Calendar.

The Ides of each month were sacred due to its lunar association, however, the Ides of March was celebrated in particular due to also being a feast day. This feast was in celebration of Anna Perenna , a goddess whose festival concluded the ceremonies of the new year. The day was enthusiastically celebrated among the Roman people with picnics, drinking, and revelry. I think we need to bring this festival back.

The tone of The Ides of March dramatically changed when Caesar was assassinated in 44BC. That, along with Shakespeare’s infamous quote – “Beware the Ides of March” – have turned the once celebrated day into something to be wary of. This reputation has been aided by the fact that some incredibly significant historical events have taken place on March 15th. Some of these include –

1311 – Death of Pope Lucius II
1889 – A devastating cyclone hit Samoa
1917 – Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicates the throne
1937 – Death of H.P. Lovecraft (admittedly, this is more to do with a personal interest)
1939 – Germany invades Czechoslovakia

The Bloody Caesar Cocktail, in all its celery-salt rimmed glory

Although March 15 has become a day of historical wariness, there are some of have chosen to channel the ancient festival spirit – the Canadians. To commemorate the Ides of March, bars across The Great White North serve the rather delicious sounding Bloody Caesar Cocktail, a drink that is somewhat reminiscent of the Bloody Mary. The ingredients typically include:


-Vodka
– Clamato (a blend of tomato juice and clam broth)
– Hot sauce
– Worcestshire sauce
– A stlk of celery or a wedge of lime
– A celery salt rimmed glass
– A celery-salt rimmed glass

So, how did this cocktail come to be?

It was invented in 1969 by restauranteur Walter Chell in Calagary in order to celebrate the opening of a new Italian restaurant in the city. Chell said his inspiration came from Italy, recalling that in Venice, they served Spaghetti alle vongole – a dish containing tomato sauce and clams. He reasoned that the mixture of clams and tomato sauce would make a good drink. He was correct, because the Caesar quickly became a popular mixed drink within Canada, where over 350 million are consumed annually. In fact, annual Best Caesar in Town events are incredibly popular. For the 40th anniversary of the drink’s invention, people were  encouraged to create variants, some of which included glasses being rimmed with coffee grinds, the inclusion of maple syrup and the use of bacon-infused vodka. 

Today, the popularity of the drink, as well as its name, have given birth to its association with the Ides of March. Personally, I think that the Canadians have the right idea. Lets get March 15 back to its roots – by being a day of drinking and debauchery. In the Middle of Lent. Surely the Catholics won’t mind…right?

Have a safe March 15th, everyone. And remember – Beware the Ides of March…or at least have a drink to celebrate it.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to hear it in your earbuds? If so, I humbly ask you to take the time to donate $1 to the Delicious History Podcast Project. Only $500 is needed make this dream a reality, and all donations over $10 receive a reward! 

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The Origin of Birthday Cake


Yesterday was my birthday! This of course means a celebration that will last for several weeks, as well as a related post. It’s all very exciting.

In other amazing news, I won’t be posting for a couple of weeks because I’m going on a cruise to the South Pacific. I’ll be sure to come back with some great topics to write about, as well as a tan. Everybody wins! Anyway, without further ado, let’s learn about birthday cake!

As you may remember from my wedding cake post, the words for ‘cake’ and ‘bread’ were virtually interchangeable in early Europe. Unsurprisingly, the only difference between the two was that cakes were sweet.  In the 15th century, bakeries in Germany conceived the idea of marketing cakes for customers’ birthdays, as well as for their weddings. They were mostly used for the birthdays of young children and thus these celebrations were referred to as Kinderfest. It was during this time period that cakes began to be layered and laden with new ingredients in order to render them sweeter and less bread-like. These kinds of cakes were called Geburtstagorten by the Germans.

Mmm, cake.

During the 17th century, the birthday cake took on a more contemporary form. These elaborate cakes, which possess the same attributes of modern cakes (multiple layers, icing, and decorations), were only available to the very wealthy. However, as a result of the Industrial Revolution, birthday cakes eventually became proletarianized as materials and tools became more advanced and more easily acquired.

The tradition of placing candles on cakes can be attributed to the Ancient Greeks, who baked cakes to honour Artemis, the goddess of the moon. The theory behind the practice was that the light from the candles made the cake itself glow like the  moon. It is also believed that the smoke from the candles carried their prayers to the Gods. This tradition has survived to a certain extent today. We may not say a prayer when we blow out birthday candles, but most of us do still make a wish.

The earliest reference to the tradition of blowing out birthday candles was documented Switzerland in 1881. Researchers for the Folk-Lore Journal recorded various “superstitions” amongst the Swiss middle class. The following statement was recorded, ““A birthday-cake must have lighted candles arranged around it, one candle for each year of life. Before the cake is eaten the person whose birthday it is should blow out the candles one after another.”

I hope you have enjoyed our rather short and sweet foray into the history of birthday cakes. I  also hope that it will tide you over until I’m back in the country and have constant access to my precious internet. See you all in a fortnight!

 

The Wedding Cake: A History


Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a couple of close friends from highschool. It got me thinking about wedding traditions, particularly the wedding cake. I thought that it would be interesting to explore the its origin, and how it has developed throughout history.

The original concept for the wedding cake can be found in the ancient Roman Empire. Unlike the sweet and heavily iced cakes of the 21st century, these were made of whole wheat flour. Although the preparation and decoration of the cakes was vastly different at this time, it still enjoyed the same attention and focus.

There are some curious wedding cake customs that are now long forgotten. Let’s just say that they are somewhat more eccentric than merely witnessing the newly weds cut the cake together…

For example, the aforementioned ancient bread cake was broken into small pieces over the bride’s head. Upon completing this ritual, guests would eat the pieces, as it was considered it to be a good omen. Can I just say that nobody better try this on my wedding day. I’m not getting up at 5am for styling just to have it turned into bread-hair.

From Medieval England, there are accounts of a custom that involved placing large amounts of sweet buns in front of the newly weds who would then attempt to kiss over the pile. If they were successful, it was considered as a sign that the couple would bear many children. This obsession with child-bearing also explains why fruit cake eventually became traditional at weddings – they were a sign of fertility and prosperity.

Always Impressive – The Croquembouche

Interestingly, the tradition of the sweet bun pile also unwittingly gave birth to a famous delicacy. It is said that a French pastry chef witnessed this custom in England and was inspired thusly to create the Croquembouche – a French wedding cake made out of a tower of profiteroles, topped with a halo of spun sugar. It was to become the signiature French wedding cake…as well as an elimination challenge in every season of Master Chef.

Around late 17th century, the wedding cake came to be known as the bride’s pie. Generally, they were mince pies made from sugary sweet breads. Every wedding guest was expected to eat a piece as it was considered both rude as well as extremely bad luck not to do so. A glass ring was hidden inside the pie, and it was believed that the female guest who found it would be the next one to be wed. This is of course reminiscent of the modern tradition of catching the bouquet.

Another interesting tradition from the 17th century was keeping a piece of cake under an unwed girl’s pillow. The custom was to break the cake into tiny pieces, which then were passed through the bride’s wedding ring. These pieces were then offered to the female guests to be placed under their pillows. By following this ritual, it was believed that they would dream of their future husband.

The 17th century also gave birth to the tradition of having two cakes – the bride’s and the groom’s. Personally, I was under the impression that this was a relatively new concept that allowed modern grooms to have a cake that wasn’t horrifyingly girly. Alas, it’s origins can be found in history.

A somewhat more…modern wedding cake.

Traditionally, the groom’s cake was a dark coloured fruit cake and was quite small in size. Comparatively, the bride’s was a simple, but large pound cake with white icing, which was used to symbolize virginity and purity.

It was during the 19th century that the groom’s cake began to disappear, as the bride’s was becoming more popular. This was largely due to sugar becoming more easily obtainable. However, this sweet commodity was still expensive and as such, only wealthy families could afford to have pure white icing. Consequently, it became something of a status symbol. This was proven only further when white icing was dubbed ‘royal icing’ after Queen Victoria used it for her own wedding cake.

The modern wedding cake, as we know it, originated from the wedding of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. He was married in 1882 and his cake was the first in recorded history to be completely edible. It was baked in separate layers and contained very dense icing. When the icing hardened the tiers were then stacked together – a groundbreaking innovation that had never been used before. Modern wedding cakes still use this method, but because of their size, internal support is sometimes added to each layer in the form of dowels.

So there you have it, a very brief history of the wedding cake. I must say that I had a fantastic time researching this topic – there were far more interesting and quirky anecdotes than I expected. In light of modern cakes being so versatile, and more of a reflection of the couple’s personalities, it was fascinating to discover the origins and long dead traditions of yesteryear.

In finishing, I’d like to thank Ryan and Tara for being the inspiration for this post. I know you’re going to have a wonderful (and hopefully cake-filled) life together.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to hear it in your earbuds? If so, I humbly ask you to take the time to donate $1 to the Delicious History Podcast Project.Only $500 is needed make this dream a reality, and all donations over $10 receive a reward!