Phyllo pastry (or Filo to our American friends) has a disputed origin. The name means “leaf” pastry, which I’ll come back to later. If you accept that the earliest modern dish using it is baklava, it first appears in the Thirteenth Century, in the the Eastern Roman Empire. Baklava is basically interlayered flaky pastry and nuts, soaked in a syrup or honey. There are earlier dishes which seem something similar. Cato mentions a Roman dish called placenta which appears to be made out of honeyed leaves of pastry. Placenta just means “layered” and Cato calls an individual piece of pastry a “tractus”. There are also a few eastern European meat dishes, and a wrapped almond paste from further east. Regardless, baklava’s ancestors become prevalent in the written record just after the game period.
When I say it is called “leaf” pastry, I’d like to play on words here, and suggest the leaves of a book. I first had this idea when I was watching Great British Bake Off. When rolling phyllo, the way to tell if your leaves are thin enough is to check if you can read through them. I saw it and thought that if you slipped and dropped the sheet, on a medieval manuscript you’d get trace transfer of the type from the page to the pastry. This immediately put in mind a mystery cult from one of the older supplements, where people memorized books perfectly by eating them. Could phyllo, which is made far more easily with Rego magic than by hand, be the invention of a cultist who was sick of eating tanned vellum etched with iron gall ink?
How old is this tradition really? We know very little about Jerbiton’s wife, except she was named Miriam and bought honeyed cakes to the first Tribunal meeting. The assumption was that these were of the Roman style, but could they have been primer placentas of the new Hermetic Magic Theory? If this is the case, who wrote them? In the depths of Valnastium, is there a lost xylographic block of Magic Theory, or is it kept by the society that eats books?