Beware the Ides of March

Today marks one of my favorite holidays.

It's not a particularly festive day. There aren't presents exchanged or any days off work. Honestly, it's not even a real holiday. Mainly, I celebrate because I grew up in an education-centered household, where we played The State Capital Game on car trips and had self-induced summer reading projects.

What's so special about today? It's March 15, the Ides of March. As in, "Beware the Ides of March." You know, from "Julius Caesar," marking the day the Roman ruler was assassinated.

Back in ole Jules' day, kitchens were stocked with far less fare than modern pantries - olive oil and bread served as main staples in Roman diets. In celebration of Caesar's un-birthday, Nester's Needs will focus on bread and oil dipping trays, a kitchen essential the ancient Romans would have surely coveted.

Housewives in Rome could have created an instant centerpiece with the Oil Dipping Set from Pampered Chef. The set comes with four 4-inch dipping saucers, each painted in a Tuscan-inspired motif, as well as a 13-inch ceramic bottle. The elegant, hand-painted bottle stores up to 22⁄3 cups of olive oil and comes with a cork and pour spout. The set is not recommended for microwave use, but is dishwasher-safe. Retailing for $30, the set is sold through Pampered Chef retailers and online at www.pamperedchef.com.

Ancient Rome was not lucky enough to have Bed, Bath and Beyond, but we Gwinnettians, thankfully, are. The retailer's simple yet stylish Nine-Piece Dipping Set includes three shallow dipping saucers, four deep dipping bowls and a 14-ounce bottle for oil. Unlike most dipping sets, this one also features a bread serving tray. The complete set, which is dishwasher-safe, retails for $19.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Dean Jacobs offers a centerpiece fit for a Roman ruler in its Complete Bread Dipping Set. The seven-piece set, crafted from white porcelain, includes a rectangular olive oil cruet, an 81⁄2-ounce bottle of Greek olive oil and four dipping saucers - one for each Dean Jacobs seasoning flavor. Retailing for $19.99, the set is sold at area home stores and online at www.cookscorner.net.

The Rustic Vines five-piece Oil-Dipping Set is painted in pale yellows and greens and constructed from stoneware. Included in the set are an 81⁄2-ounce olive oil bottle and four saucers. Both the bottle and saucers are microwave- and dishwasher-safe. Retailing for $19.99, the set is available at Target and online at www.amazon.com.

Staff writer Anna Ferguson can be reached at 770-963-9205, ext. 1308 or at anna.ferguson@gwinnettdailypost.com.