E is for Ephesus. Ancient Ephesus!

We had a blast last week exploring Dublin but this week we headed to a new place and a new time. I’m trying to fit in as many of our future travel destinations as possible in our alphabetical global adventure, so when we got to “E” I decided to explore Ephesus. It’s not 100 percent sure, but we’re hoping to fit a visit to Turkey into our summer travel plans next year, so I thought it would be fun to introduce the kids to one of my favourite destinations in Turkey.

We had visited Turkey last year for “T” week and although I barely had a chance to touch the rich culture and variety of cuisine in that country, I felt it would be fun to do something new a different this week. Ephesus itself, of course, is no longer inhabited; the ruins of the ancient Roman city are on the western coast of Turkey about 3 km from the modern town of Selcuk. So this week I decided that we would not only go overseas, we would go back in time as well!

We started this afternoon by finding Ephesus on a map, looking at pictures of ancient Ephesus and trying to give the kids some understanding of the concept of past civilizations and the passage of time. I showed them some stories of Paul in Ephesus from their children’s bible and showed them the pictures of the amphitheatre in the modern day tourist site and explained that this was the very place where Paul stood in that story almost 2000 years ago. It was a hard concept for me to get my head around when I visited Ephesus as an adult so I can understand that the kids were a bit puzzled.

They were much happier about the next project; dressing like a child from ancient Ephesus. I found a template to make ancient Roman children’s costumes out of pillowcases and I was quite happy with how they turned out. My son complained a bit that his looked too much like a dress (which it did) but since he was only three I was able to convince him that it was a tunic and a tunic was nothing at all like a dress. My daughter loves dresses of all sorts, although she rejected the plain white belt I found for hers and instead chose to accessorize with one of my old silk scarves around her waist.

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For dinner I was able to find quite a few recipes from ancient Rome online and in the library. I actually ended up using a recipe for honey glazed dormice that had been adapted for modern times to use chicken instead (phew!). I also made a dish of lentils and leeks and a dish of ricotta with roasted grapes. I found a recipe for ancient Roman bread using spelt flour and the loaf turned out okay, but a bit heavy. I had never baked with spelt before and I think I’d use part wheat flour and a longer rising time if I were to make it again, but it was nice fresh from the oven. I read that the ancient Romans ate lettuce and other salad greens but I couldn’t find any specific salad recipes, so I just used spring mix with pine nuts, chopped dates and a sprinkling of cheese on top with a simple olive oil dressing. I also tried eating Roman style with cushions around a low table in the living room.

So my poor husband arrived home from work today to find his family dressed in pillowcases, his supper spread out on the coffee table and his wife handing him a sheet telling him to put on his toga and come to dinner. Have I mentioned that he really is The World’s Most Patient Man?

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The verdict? The food was good, although the fact that there was honey and olive oil in pretty much every dish made it taste a wee bit monotonous. The honey glazed chicken was the favourite and I think it may make it into my regular menu rotation. The lentils were surprisingly good with the leeks adding lots of flavour, although I’d leave out the honey from the recipe if I made it again. My kids rejected pretty much everything but the bread and the chicken, but the chance to eat supper on the living room floor more than made up for any disappointments in the food department. Overall, I found it to be a real challenge to try to cook a meal with only old world ingredients; you don’t realize how global our diet has become until you try to cook with ancient limitations.

For dessert we had, you guessed it, more olive oil and honey! This time it was in the form of olive oil cake infused with honey syrup. For once, it was my daughter who took one taste and rejected it while my son polished off his own piece and then ate his sister’s. I really liked the taste and texture of the cake, quite different from your typical frosted cake, but I’m pretty sure my husband wasn’t quite as thrilled. Oh well, more for me.

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Overall, I had a great time going back in time to the ancient world. The kids got a small introduction a different place and time and I really got to challenge myself in recreating an ancient meal. Hopefully they will be able to remember some of it when we get a chance to see ancient Ephesus for real. I may have to go back in time with them again some time!

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