March 15, Ides of March: A bunch of Roman Republic lovers gathered to stab Julius Caesar. Caesar was dictator or king in all but name and he was taking steps to make it official. The conspiring senators couldn’t countenance such a step. So they surrounded the tyrant and stabbed him to death.
This social stabbing might have caught on. Unfortunately for the cause of merry murdering, Caesar’s generals and friends hunted down the Senate’s assassins and killed many of them. Caesar’s great friend, Marc Anthony, and his heir, vanguished the remaining assassins’ armies. Much blood was shed. The Marc Anthony and Octavian had a tiff that just couldn’t be patched over. Things were said that couldn’t be taken back. Political ambitions burgeoned. After a spell, Octavian’s army and navy crushed those of Anthony and, in a cameo role as Marc’s lover, Cleopatra. Much more blood flowed.
So, Octavian became the Roman Empire’s first emperor. The Republic now existed in name only. So the murders’ act to preserve the Republic sealed its fate. A bit of irony there. Anyway Caesar’s mob assassination proved too closely tied to assasination. The civil wars this deed spawned also welded the idea of social slaughtering to bloody civil wars.
Thus, group murders fell out of fashion for a long, long. But the human spirit is irrepressible. Solitary murders and assassinations stepped out from the shadows of group killing and flourished. No longer did you have to be a member of an elitest clique, everybody could now take up a knife and stab some oppressor. So, maybe a little of the Senator love of a republic survived because of this bloody and fatal political statement. I like to think so. Besides group stabbing sare a no-no in times of pandemics.
The meal you should serve to commerate this day: Caprese
This Italian entree has all it needs to celebrate the Ides of March. It’s Italian, as were Julius Caesar’s and his assassins. The mozzarella circles represent the togas worn by all those involved in the great event. Slicing the tomatoes represents stabbing Julius Caesar. See? Combining history with eating can be quite fun.
1 pound mozzarella cheese
4 vine-ripened tomatoes
¼ teaspoon peppercorns (or black pepper)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup fresh basil leaves
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Serves 4. Takes 10 minutes.
There aren’t many ingredients in this dish, so fresh ones are especially important. Slice mozzarella into ¼” circles. Slice tomatoes ¼” thick. Grind peppercorns. Put alternating layers of mozzarella and tomato slices on serving plate until they are all used. Drizzle olive oil over everything and evenly sprinkle your creation with basil leaves, ground pepper, and sea salt.
– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef, Ph.D.
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