By the way, it occurred to me that, having alluded to fertí in my last post, I might as well make public my recipe for this staple gift to the gods. After wine and incense, a fertum is probably the most common offering in Antiquity (except perhaps for flowers? or maybe milk or honey?). The way I make mine is ever so slightly jazzed up from other recipes I’ve seen on the interwebs. I present it here the way I make it—without measurements:
- flour (ideally from farro, though other grains could be used in Antiquity as well; I’ve been using spelt flour, and I bet you could get away with buckwheat, regular whole wheat, etc.)
- clear, filtered water
- salt (in this one instance, I see an advantage in using sea salt, because it can give you these nice big chunks that work well in this) [not a believer in sea salt generally]
- pepper (fresh-ground of course!)
- ground thyme
- maybe a bit of basil or rosemary or whatever else you think the gods in question would like
- olive oil (the kind for frying not dipping)
Take a couple good handfuls of flour and dump them in a mixing bowl. Splash in enough water so that it’ll mix together in a decent batter. Stick your hands in there and work the water into the flour. When it’s a uniform consistency (and no later), grind in a very generous quantity of salt and pepper. Sprinkle in a dash or two of thyme, a shake of olive oil, and whatever other spices you think are appropriate, and mix it together a bit.
Heat some more oil in your cast-iron skillet. When the oil’s good and hot (hot enough so that water will splatter if you shake a drop or two in), turn down the heat a bit, roll the batter into little roundish glops, and put them in the skillet to cook. I do mine pretty small, like golden dollar pancakes, but you may want to go a bit bigger. I get a batch of about seven in my skillet.
Let them fry till they’re golden brown (not burnt!). You may want to flatten out the tops with a spatula while the bottom side is going. They’ll be ready to flip over when the batter starts making a faint whistling sound (if not before). Let the other side get golden brown, and put them out to dry on a drying rack or something (otherwise the condensation will make them all soggy).
Voilà! a meal fit for a god. They actually do make tasty little morsels, if you want to try one for yourself for quality control purposes. The key is using enough salt and other seasonings: Plain old flour/water/oil is awfully bland. Besides, I think it’s not really a fertum without salt (just as mola salsa is not mola salsa without salt).