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Ancient Roman Cuisine:

Much of what we recognize as Ancient Roman cuisine is based upon the writings (and sometimes incomplete recipes) of Marcus Gavius Apicius. Apicius lived during the reign of Tiberius in the 1st century A.D., and lived luxoriously in the resort town of Minturnae. He reportedly exhausted his fortunes on exotic ingredients and lavish dinners, and then committed suicide rather than live frugally.

Fortunately for us, Apicius recorded his favorite combinations of ingredients in what is now known as "de re Coquinaria", the oldest known cookbook in existence. This work does not include spagetti marinara, or eggplant parmesan, or other familiar Italian dishes. The tomato was not introduced to Italy until at least 1544!

Instead, Ancient Roman cuisine borrows much from Ancient Greek cuisine, and is characterized by the use of meats, legumes, fresh vegetables and fruits, and a large variety of herbs and spices. Apicius' famous sauces balanced the flavors of crushed green herbs with ground spices. A second level of flavors, the sweetness of honey and the tartness of vinegar, is then added. Some recipes include a third element: raisins, dates, almonds, walnuts, or chestnuts. Join us at our next banquet, and try these flavors for yourself!

 


Our members recommend their favorite books on Roman Cuisine:

Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome, by Patrick Faas
This volume contains over 150 recipes and a LOT of useful information about ancient culinary history. It's a very interesting read!

~Aurelia

A Taste of Ancient Rome, by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa
The first book I ever owned about ancient Roman cuisine, and still one of my all-time favorites. Check out the Chicken a la Fronto on page 105. Yum!

~Aurelia

The Philosopher's Kitchen, by Francine Segan
This book is just gorgeous. The recipes are beautifully complimented by inspiring photographs. It's almost as good as being there in an ancient Roman kitchen.

~Aurelia

The Classical Cookbook, by Andrew Dalby
Organized not by type of recipe, but by type of meal, this book offers a glimpse of 8 different banquets. From a wedding feast to supper at the baths, the recipes are accented by history, mythology, and really cool pictures.

~Aurelia

Roman Cookery, by Mark Grant
A small and easy to use guide to ancient Roman cooking. Mark Grant has adapted the recipes for modern kitchens, altering some ingredients but also including original text.

~Aurelia

Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, by Apicius (translated by Joseph Dommers Vehling)
One of many translations of the writings of Apicius. VERY interesting if you want to look to the original text - In almost 500 recipes, actual quantities are hard to find.

~Aurelia

You may also browse our complete list of recommendations.

 

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