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Roman food and Delicacies
« on: March 10, 2013, 01:27:33 AM »
Roman food and Delicacies
First, when thinking about Roman food, the value of items was different then, than it is now. For instance, in today?s world, we might spend 20% of our total income on food, but in ancient times the cost may have been 50% or more of one?s total income. In fact, during parts of the history of Rome, food costs were so high that without free wheat subsidies from the government, the common people would not have been able to survive! These subsidies were known as ?doles? and according to A.E.J. Morris?s History of Urban Form [1970 George Godwin LTD], up to 1/3 of the citizens of the capital city received this public assistance.

Recreating Roman Food
A big problem in trying to recreate Roman food is that so much information has been lost? 2000 years is a LONG time! Over the years, many recipes have been lost and only a few have made it down through the ages, the most famous of these is the De re Coquinaria, a book of recipes by Apicius. Something to remember though, is that tastes were different then, many different spices were popular, being one that comes to mind) and in fact, some of the spices that were popular then, are now extinct (Silphium (or Asafetida). Anyway, you?ll find the foods different tasting, not bad mind you, just different. How about pancakes spiced with pepper? Stuffed dormice or snails? Okay yeah, some of it is weird to us, but a lot of our modern food would seem that way to someone from another age. So, revel in the differences, as THIS is what reenacting and living history is about!

What Roman Food was and was Not
Roman food? what does this conjure up in your mind? Italian-like maybe? Spaghetti? Pizza? Calzone? Well, no, not really ? those are modern Italian foods. The Romans were actually quite the gourmets and also known for the varied ways they cooked and served the food (the upper classes anyway). Does this mean the average ?schmoe? ate that well? No, but some things crossed societal class lines, among them was garum or liquamen, a sauce made of fermented fish. Romans used garum in practically everything and the average Roman would have been quite familiar with it. A modern substitute for garum would prob-ably be Vietnamese Nuc-Nam fish sauce, which, although not made exactly like garum, is pretty damn close ? so, unless you plan to try your hand at fermenting fish, Nuc-Nam seems to be our best substitute for garum.

The Main Food Stuff
Grain formed the foundation of the common Roman?s diet and it was not uncommon for grain to be the only thing a poor Roman ever ate. The cost of baking bread was very high for poor Romans, so if no access to a communal, public oven could be had, the grain would be crushed and made into a porridge known as puls. Puls was most likely similar in taste and texture to modern polenta ? Mmmmmm...

While we take it for granted today, meat was an extravagant luxury that most Romans simply could not afford to indulge in.
The soldier?s diet was much like the diet of poor Romans in that they ate a lot of grains, but one bennie for the soldiers was they might get this preponderance of grain interspersed with meat.
Marsh Wise
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