Roman Food Related Facts…..
Yankee Doodle went to town riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his throat and threw up macaroni…..
Okay, so it wasn’t Yankee Doodle, it was Emperor Claudius. Although some historians debate the accuracy of this, historical writings do refer to the feather method as a means to make room for more food. Claudius would eat as much as he could, then proceed to have a feather stuck down his throat to induce vomiting and allow him to consume even more food. Claudius was not alone. It is also believed that Emperor Vitellius used emetics to purge his system so that he could attend several state dinners in one evening.
Food was an extremely important aspect of many Roman’s lives, especially for the wealthy. Feasts were sensational affairs with elaborate dishes and multiple courses. Furthermore, they ate just about every imaginable creature. One surviving menu has such interesting options as roast dormice in honey and poppy-seed, ram’s testicles, sow’s udder, pork stuffed with live birds, imitation goose, poultry, and fish made of pork. Yummm???
The importance of Roman drinks cannot be overlooked either. The main alcoholic drink was of course wine, but they also had beer and absinthe as well. Surviving recipes include rose water wine and absinthe made with the best North African wormwood. The Romans also ate snow, sometimes flavoring it with spiced wine. (Sounds better than the maple syrup covered snow I ate as a child).
The Romans used a great number of herbs in their cooking. Some, like cumin, mint and coriander, are common to us now. However, they also used herbs like spikenard, which was an aromatic grass. This ingredient also doubled as a perfume. In addition to herbs, the Romans used a variety of spices, most of which we use today. Rome’s location, along with the spread of the empire, gave them access to some of the best spices in the world.
Here are a few recipes from ancient Rome. I picked a few easily adaptable for home cooking should any want a food adventure.
The bread used in this recipe is African mustaceum, which is made with honey water, aniseed, cumin, white wine, and white grape juice. You can probably find specialty bread that would work just as well.
- Cut the crust from the bread and soak it in milk.
- After it is saturated, bake in the oven at 350 degrees.
- Drench in honey, poking holes in the bread to absorb the liquid, and sprinkle with pepper.
Mashed Garlic (similar to Aioli)
This dish was served as breakfast for farm workers and galley slaves.
2 bulbs of fresh garlic
1 pinch coarse salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
5 oz (give or take) of olive oil.
- Crush the garlic in a mortar with the salt.
- Grind to a paste and add olive oil.
- Serve on bread of choice.
Other interesting recipes include Patina of Stinging Nettles, Fig-fed liver, and Ostrich Ragout.
I am looking forward to trying some of these recipes. As much as I love food, I tend to be a pork chop, steak, and chicken breast kind of girl. This will definitely push the envelope on what I consume.
 Patric Faas, Around the Roman Table, 66-67.
 194, 195.