Monday, August 15, 2011


when you see one bird, there 's another turning over..... and the two can fly much higher...

Personally, I feel so good going back into history and for being able to publish this post on the cuisine and eating habits of the ancient Romans, who were very advanced and progressive as compared to any other nations during their time… another  culinary variety from me.

 In the evening, the ancient Romans consumed the cena, the main meal of the day and some even lasted  until late at night. The upper class conducted their business in the morning till noon.

In summer, it was popular to eat outside. Many houses in Pompeii had stone couches in the garden for a cena. People lay down on couches when they eat only on formal occasions, not for routine meals.

During a dinner for guests, musicians, acrobats, poets or dancers would perform and dinner conversation played an important role. Some of the lyrics/ poems even mentioned food ingredients.

Appetizers, called acetaria were pickled fruits and vegetables such as zucchini, olives, chicory, chard, broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, leeks, carrots, turnips, beets, peas, green beans, radishes, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuces, onions, cucumbers, fennel, melons, capers and cress.

Starters were salads and vegetable plants.

The main dish usually consisted of meat and hares, pigeons, crane, ostrich and chicken . Newborn rabbits or rabbit fetuses and the liver of force-fed geese were considered a delicacy.  Amongst the wealthiest, they ate  exotic food like flamingo- Wikipedia
Peacock and swans were eaten on special occasions. Capons and poulards (spayed hens) were considered specialties too.

Fish was very expensive, the goatfish was considered the epitome of luxury, above all because its scales exhibit a bright red color when it dies out of water. . For this reason these fish were occasionally allowed to die slowly at the table, a fashionable display for the Romans. An unfashionable display of dying fish, will bore the guests.
Garum, a sauce from salted fish was widely used as a flavoring ingredient.

There were no side dishes, although bread was consumed by all classes following the introduction of wheat
Spices were used and available in abundance, such as basil, bay, dill, fennel, mint, parsley, rue and thyme
Desserts- Amongst fruits, grapes were the most preferred. Others were figs, dates, pomegranates, apples, apricots and  multi berries.

It was considered an indication of the highest achievement in culinary art  if a gourmet could not tell what the ingredients of a dish were- either by sight or by smell or by taste.

In PERSON the term GOURMET refers to a person with refined or discriminating taste or to one who is knowledgeable in the art of food and food preparation. An epicure is similar to a gourmet, but the word may sometimes carry overtones of excessive refinement
Gourmand carries additional connotations of one who simply enjoys food in great quantities.

In FOOD the term  GOURMET may describe a high quality class of restaurant, cuisine, meal or ingredient, of special presentation, or high sophistication.

Apicius is the title of a collection of Roman cookery recipes, usually thought to have been compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century AD.
Apicius had long been associated with excessively refined love of food, from the habits of an early bearer of the name, Marcus Gavius Apicius . Apicius is often, but incorrectly, attributed to him. Actually,
Apicius is a text ("On the Subject of Cooking"), of which the name of this cookbook  was  attributed.
Marcus Gavius Apicius is believed to have been a Roman gourmet and lover of luxury, who lived sometime in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Tiberius.  Apicius advised that flamingo's tongue was of superb flavor. But, it was not to say that he was the first epicure.

Here are a few recipes from the above “webpage reproduction” of The Apicius on chicken (fowl) and one on fish. The ancient  recipes were written in a very brief manner, unlike today’s recipes

1. A Way of Cooking Crane, Duck or Chicken
Pepper, shallots, lovage, cumin, celery seed, prunes or Damascus plums- stones removed, fresh must, vinegar, broth, reduced must and oil. Boil the chicken in


2. White Sauce for Boiled Fowl

Boil fowl and keep the juice (broth)
Pepper, lovage, cumin, celery seed, toasted nuts from Pontus (Turkish hazelnuts), or almonds, also shelled pine nuts,(all crushed), honey1, a little broth, vinegar and oil.

Cook , thicken and pour over the boiled chicken.

3. Another white sauce
Cook the chicken in this stock: broth, oil,  a bunch of leeks, coriander, satury; when done, crush pepper, nuts with 2 glasses of water2 and the juice of the chicken.
Retire the bunches of greens, add milk to taste.
The things crushed in the mortar add to the chicken and cook it together:
 thicken the sauce with beaten whites of egg3 and pour the sauce over the chicken.
This is called "white sauce."

4. Another Sauce
Pepper, lovage, parsley, celery seed, rue, pine nuts, dates, honey, vinegar, broth, mustard and a little oil. Crushed in the mortar.

 Add to juice of chicken. Cook together. Thicken with egg whites.


5.  Guinea Hen
Prepare the chicken as usual; parboil it
1; clean it2 seasoned with laser and pepper, and fry in the pan; next crush pepper, cumin, coriander seed, laser root, rue, fig dates and nuts, moistened with vinegar, honey, broth and oil to taste3.

When boiling, Thicken it with roux. strain. Then pour over the chicken, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

 1 Half boil it
2 Remove skin, tissues, bones, etc., cut in pieces and marinate in the pickle (seasoned with).
3 Immerse the chicken pieces in this sauce and braise them to a point.
The preparation of most sauces began with spices and herbs, usually pepper, which often were combined with cumin,  sometimes its difficult to determine whether they were to be fresh or dried, leaf or seed. Thereafter, being grounded in a mortar. Mortaria are ingredients crushed in the mortar, ready to be used
 Fruits (plums, dates, raisins) and nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts) were added (and often pounded as well). Also added were liquids, including garum, water, stock, milk, honey, oil and vinegar, both plain and reduced.
Thicken the gravy- the French term roux- Thickening usually was by wheat starch or rice flour, with fats or liquids to thicken the  fluids. Thickening also included the yolks and whites of eggs, pounded dates, and steeped rice add  to the water in which the food had been boiled like pigeons, crane, ostrich and chicken.                                                                   

6. Alexandrine Sauce for Broiled Fish 

Ius Alexandrinum in pisce asso

Pepper, dry onions [shallots] lovage, cumin, origany, celery seed, stoned Damascus prunes pounded in the mortar filled up2 with vinegar, broth, reduced must, and oil, and cook it.

Still life with fruit basket and vases (Pompeii, ca. A.D. 70)
Any of you chefs, bloggers or visitors to this post would like to share your culinary skills and comments  based on any of the Apicius recipes here- do put them in my comment box... Will definitely be fun to read your version and compare them with the ancient Roman culinary art... 


  1. Hello Ms.Wan *hugs* so much info..the Romans would like to see their fish slowly dying on their table..really unusual..and a guinea hen ok that's new for me..thank you Ms.Wan again..that's what I love on your does not only give cooking recipes but it gives added information..

    passing by Ms.Wan..breakfast :)

  2. Great post...
    No wonder Romans designed 'vomitoriums' (?). The only way they could eat so much is to use the special room.

  3. hmm..known them as barbarians, never did any reading on their cuisines..nice..

  4. i learned so much from this post! cena is always the word for dinner in spanish too!

  5. Fascinating post! We've watched many documentaries of life in Roman and Pompeii but none talked about the foods eaten. Thank you for sharing this. Really interesting, especially letting the fish die at the table to impress the guests.

  6. you could use soymilk instead of almond milk. do you happen to have that over there?

  7. Great post and thanks for sharing all the info and sharing those ancient recipes!

  8. Plenty of info of how food was done which is open for us to try. Nice post Maznah.

  9. that's interesting and a little suprised to know peacock and flamingo too were eaten. oh boy, how did they cook the flamingo's tongue?

  10. mant thanks to sie, jasna,junia, syed alfandi, mari wilbur, sutapa, nava and lena for your kind visits and keen interests in this post. have a wonderful day.

  11. I have learned a lot from this informative and inspirational post.

  12. Roman Empire being 1200 years of existence, huge territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean, a melting pot of cultures, so one can imagine the wide selection and varieties on food they had then.

    Just cannot imagine they had almost all those ingredients including spices even during those days too.

    I attended a cooking session on how to prepare Hainanese chicken rice. Loved these since I was young and always wondered why their chicken meat is so tender and succulent, yet looked simple when served.

    So the trick is to MASSAGE the chicken for about 5 minutes, same as you get a body massage!! It was hilarious how the chef demonstrated! Having done so, poke diagonally using long needles into the flesh, immerse the whole chicken and boil (with ginger and two types of Chinese herbs/ roots). Hang it to dry... you will get real juicy, white tender meat!


  13. Very interesting post! I could't imagine eating Swan or Peacock....but what we enjoy today may have been repulsive back then - it's amazing how things change!

  14. Hey my dear, its very nice, interesting to know, keep sharing nice stuff more..
    Thanks a bunch!

  15. wow...very interesting ur presentation dear..:)
    Tasty Appetite

  16. very interesting and informative post, nice to know more abt the roman cuisine and recipes, thanks a lot for your lovely comments at my space..:)

  17. Many thanks to angie’s recipes, Katrina, ann,, creative mind, jay and sobha for your kind visits and sweet comments.

    @ Ann – I do agree with that what they ate before may be repulsive to us.
    Wonder what is in our menu, that is likely to be repulsive to them- may be canned food and frozen food where the original freshness is gone

  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  19. wow ! dont think i can stomach a rabbit foetus :( :) :( :) :((((( also peacocks. ha ha

  20. That sound like an easy dishes to cook but I am not sure I will like the taste. ["~]

  21. I'm always amazed at how similar yet different the Romans of the Late Republic are to us. Despite a 2000 year difference, their food, drink, and meal habits almost seem modern . . . but not quite.

    What follows is mostly a tabular synopsis of what kinds of bread, vegetables, fruit, and drink the Romans of the Late Roman Republic were accustomed to as well as a couple of short tables showing how everyday meals and fancy dinner parties were different from one another.

    Only the rich could afford a steady diet of meat. So wheat (known to the Romans as "corn" [frumentum]) was the staple food of most Romans. They mostly ate it as a boiled porridge, sometimes adding flavorings or relishes to it. They had desserts too. And, of course, bread was a staple.

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  23. Ooooh! That duck recipe sounds fabulous! Great post, love all the info :)

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  25. many thanks to thflowers, lunaticg, IBG and parsley sage for your kind visits and sweet comments.

  26. Very interesting and informative post. I don't think I like the Roman cuisine.