Click here to skip to my recipe for Themysciran Feast of Five Crown of Lamb.
Wonder Woman is now in theaters. While I did enjoy the film immensely, I was disappointed that it left out the Themyscira origin story version that I feel best captures the influences behind Diana’s principles and values.
In the 1987 relaunch of Wonder Woman, five Olympian goddesses shaped the Amazons from clay, gave them the prehistoric reincarnated souls of women slain by men, and breathed them into the realm of the living. They then tasked the mission of balancing and bringing peace to the warlike patriarchal world to their new creations, through lessons of love, virtue, and equality.
The world is not so easily won, however. When Ares, the god of war, later drives Heracles to enslave them, Queen Hippolyta (Diana’s mother) entreats the five for salvation for her people. They hear her and rescue the Amazons, bringing them to the protected island that you recognize as Themyscira — named after their fallen capital (or “Paradise Island” for those who have trouble pronouncing it otherwise). From that point on they celebrate their creation every year with a festival they call the Feast of Five.
So in the spirit of Themyscira, I wanted to create a dish that the Amazons would serve at the feast in homage to all five of its founders – Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Hestia, and Aphrodite. What I came up with was a Crown of Lamb Rib Roast with a Bulgur Wheat and Apple Pilaf. Before I get to the recipe, though, here’s a little bit of background information about the goddesses who inspired it.
First, as custom with all banquets in early Greco-Roman culture, I will start with Hestia. I love that Hestia is included among the Five of Themyscira, even though the film only mentions her in regards to the Lasso of Truth. She is the goddess of the hearth and cooking, which you can imagine is why I hold a particular fondness for her. But it’s more than that. In mythology, Hestia represents the foundation of the home, family, domestic order, and the state.
It would make sense that Hestia’s Hearth powers the Lasso of Truth, though. She is a goddess who ain’t got time for yo’ sh*t. Poseidon and Apollo both demanded her hand in marriage. Hestia said: “Hades, no! I’m my own goddess, thank you!” Aphrodite, the goddess of love, tried to sway her heart with her powers of desire and passion. Hestia was like: “Ya done, now? Shut up and eat your bacon!”
She later gave up her seat as an Olympian to the god of wine, Dionysius — under the appearance of humility and submission. I see her more as a salty chef who’s too busy to care about whatever petty drama there is outside of her kitchen. Burn the roast, and you might burn the house down. You let the fire go out, and everyone starves to death. You build a home on lies, and its foundation will crumble out from underneath you. Hestia will chase your a** out of her kitchen with a sharpened wooden spoon if you try to come near her with any of that nonsense. Her symbols are the flame of the hearth and the first sacrifice — most commonly a pig. I mean, how metal is that? She is the goddess of fire and bacon!
Initially, I had planned this dish to be a pork rib crown roast, but they aren’t exactly available outside of the winter holidays. They can also be wicked expensive ($50-120/roast). So instead I opted for a different but literal sacrificial lamb to make a crown of lamb ribs. I also fried up some thick-cut bacon to mix into an accompanying pilaf and sauce.
Speaking of pilaf, that brings me up to the next goddess of the Five: the Goddess of Grain, herself, Demeter! While she rules the harvest, she also presides over sacred law — the unwritten moral and ethical code that binds and enforces cooperation in an agricultural society.
All cereals and grains, as well many other plants are sacred to Demeter. Since the list is rather long, I pared it down a bit for this recipe — using bulgur wheat as the base of my pilaf, while mixing in some dried golden figs, and roasting the lamb with some fresh mint.
You know her as the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. In the first Wonder Woman origin story, by creator William Moulton Marston, Hippolyta formed Diana out of clay and Aphrodite personally breathed her into life. To me, this makes more sense than her being fathered by and then remaining dutiful to Zeus as the New 52 storyline, and the current film implies. That lightning-flinging king of the gods was the most entitled, authoritative, vengeful, and violent rapist in Greek and Roman mythology. He epitomizes almost every toxic character flaw in a patriarchal society. To me it would make more sense for Diana, the hope of the world, to be born as an active choice out of love than as another conquest of Mount Olympus’s worst lecherer.
Aphrodite may not be a paragon of virtue, herself, but that is the nature of her identity. Love, passion, and beauty are all wonderful, admirable qualities on their own. But they are also vulnerable to those who misuse, misdirect, or try to possess them. As the living embodiment of these qualities, she is especially vulnerable. Her attraction to Ares’s fervor, and to Eris’s Apples of Discord, can stand as a metaphor for how misdirected passion can lead to envy and wrath. Working in moderation and cooperation with the Amazons and the other five goddesses, though, she thrives.
Offerings to Aphrodite commonly involved apples— probably a reference to winning Eris’s Apple of Discord in the misguided beauty pageant that led to the Trojan War. Speaking of which, Eris also laced the entire Feast of Five banquet menu with her apples (Wonder Woman #39, 1990) in an attempt to break the peace of Themyscira. Beyond that, apples hold the reputation as an aphrodisiac across several cultures throughout history. It could be the sugar rush one gets in eating them, though I suspect this largely be due to their appearance. In this recipe, I used diced apple and apple cider in the pilaf, and the latter in the sauce.
Next up is Artemis, goddess of the hunt, virginity, wild animals, childbirth, and feminine youth. The Amazons of Themyscira fervently worship their arrow and javelin-pitching patron — usually with the sacrifice of a deer.
Venison isn’t in season right now, so she will just have to share this lamb with Hestia as it’s also a symbol of youth. Since Artemis also has groves of walnut and laurel trees sacred to her in folklore, I chose to use bay leaves on the lamb while roasting, and walnuts as a garnish.
Last but never least is Athena, the goddess of knowledge, purity, arts, learning, justice, and wisdom. Representing the tempered, humble, enlightened mind, one wonders if the world would be much better off with her at the head of Olympus instead of her lust-driven father. Come to think of it, it would not be surprising if that’s exactly what happened in Themyscira.
Hippolyta’s directly gave her plea to save the Amazons to Athena. Athena, though also a goddess of war, functions under the ideal fighting only for a just cause. She made the call to save them under the condition that they do not seek vengeance as it begets further bloodshed and violence.With the aid of the other four goddesses, Athena acts a moderating and thinking force to define and balance an almost utopian society among the Amazons.
To honor Athena, I used olive oil and buttery Italian castelvetrano olives in this dish. In mythology, she won the city of Athens in a contest against Poseidon by bringing the first domesticated olive tree to its citizens. The olive tree brought wood, oil, and food – far more practical than the sea god’s salt water. No word yet as to how bitter Aquaman is over it…
Tonight, We Dine Like Goddesses!
Now that you know a bit about who you’re cooking for, I think it’s about time we get cooking. Your main goddess-sends in this recipe are kitchen twine and a bundt cake pan. Both with help you keep the shape of this mouth-watering tiara. Yes, I know the photo features a golden lasso. I tied that on for display AFTER cooking it. Melted polyester is not a recommended condiment for this recipe. For the love of Hestia, do NOT ruin your oven over perceived convenience!
Themysciran Feast of Five Lamb Crown
Equipment: Oven, stovetop, kitchen twine, bundt cake pan, aluminum foil, 12-inch skillet with a lid, small saucepan.
- 2 frenched lamb rib racks, approximately 8 ribs each
- 2 cups bulgur wheat
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider
- 2 small golden apples, diced
- 2 oz. dried golden figs, chopped
- 2.5 oz castelvetrano olives, pitted and chopped
- 4-6 strips thick cut bacon, sliced into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- handful dried bay leaves
- handful fresh mint
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons whole wheat or all purpose flour
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- cooking spray
Note: Read this recipe all the way through before attempting it. You will need to start the pilaf about halfway through the lamb roasting. You can make the sauce while the lamb and pilaf are resting.
Prepare the crown roast:
- Preheat the oven to 375° F
- Place the racks fat side down on your cutting board. Using a sharp knife, make a shallow cut – up to a half an in inch – in between each rib where the end of the bone meets the meat.
- Flip the racks on the board so that they are fat side up and side by side. Bind the innermost two bones together in a square knot with kitchen twine.
- Lift the outermost bones of each rack so that they meet. Bring the twine up and loop the twine around the base of each rib, pulling so that the racks bend into semi-circles.
- Draw the twine down to meet and hold it against the roast. Wrap the rest of the twine around the base and center of the roast once (just under the bones) and thread the twine around itself. Wrap the roast in the opposite direction two more times. Tie it off in a strong slip knot to secure.
- Drizzle olive oil onto the lamb and season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Coat the inside of a bundt cake pan with cooking spray.
- Settle the roast into the pan with the hole coming through the center of the roast. Apply the bay and mint leaves to the inside and outside of the roast and cover the whole pan with aluminum foil.
- Cook the roast in the oven 20 minutes with the foil on. The remove the foil and roast another 12-17 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 130° F.
- Transfer the roast to a cutting board and cover to rest another 20 minutes while you cook up the pilaf. Strain the juices from the pan into another container and reserve.
Make the Pilaf:
- While the lamb is roasting, heat the large skillet on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the bacon when hot and fry until it starts to crisp up on the sides. Reserve three tablespoons of bacon fat to another container.
- Add the apples saute for about two minutes, then stir in the figs and half of the chopped olives. Cook another minute, the pour in 1 1/2 cup beef broth and 1 cup apple cider.
- Bring the liquid to a boil, then stir in the bulgur and a pinch of kosher salt. Cover the skillet with a lid, reduce the heat to low and let simmer 12-15 minutes until the liquid has absorbed.
- Turn off the heat and let sit covered for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Make the sauce:
- Pour the reserved bacon fat into a saucepan over medium heat on the stovetop. When hot, whisk the flour into the fat until bubbling. Scrape the mix into a separate container.
- Mix the reserved lamb juices with the remaining broth and cider and bring to a simmer. Reduce the liquid by a quarter, then whisk in the flour-fat roux until smooth.
- Cook while stirring until sauce thickens. Turn off heat and transfer sauce to a side dish or gravy boat.
Themyscira Feast of Five, Assemble!
- Spread out a layer of pilaf on your serving platter. Fill the crown with the remaining pilaf.
- Garnish platter and crown with walnuts, leftover olives, and mint leaves.
- Slice between the ribs to serve with pilaf and sauce on the side.