Fascinating Foods from Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome has an extensive history and culture that is often studied and quite thoroughly by historians, both professionals and newbies alike. We know so much about their political climate and the Gods they worshipped, but the foods they ate is something most people have little knowledge about. To no surprise, their cuisines were just as fascinating as the rest of their culture. Here are five examples of foods from ancient Rome.

1. Garum

“Just what is garum?” It’s fish sauce and with just a little oil, ground pepper, water and gutted dry fish. It was often prepared either as a drink or sauce that was usually consumed straight or added to other meals. Garum was made by layering the innards of gutted fish between aromatic herbs, spices and salt then leaving it to dry for months in the sun. Afterwards, the mixture would be strained to produce the appetizing golden-colored sauce.

2. Gustum De Praecoquis

The gustum de praecoquis was a starter dish typically served only in elite Roman households as lower classes could hardly afford multicourse meals. It was often used to impress guests with the skills of their cooks and having access to some of the best ingredients which were hard to find. Gustum de praecoquis was an apricot sauce made with apricots, mint, ground pepper, fish sauce, vinegar, wine and raisin wine. It was also occasionally served as a dessert.

3. Puls

Because grain was a common and widespread ingredient, it was easily incorporated in many dishes including puls or porridge. Unlike modern porridge, the Roman version was nearly always savory and bursting with flavor. Punic porridge is a more luxurious version of puls that sometimes contained ingredients such as eggs, cheese and honey, making it a very filling and hearty meal. Some porridges were even seasoned with herbs and spices and because it was so widespread, it was regarded as a low-class dish.

4. Patina

A patina is a sweet or savory dessert or main meal which resembles a modern-day souffle due to its light and fluffy texture. It was also a favorite among the elite who often employed the best cooks to recreate it. Eggs were one of the main ingredients, along with ripe pears, sweet wine, olive oil, cracked peppers, cumin, fish sauce and honey. This is a typical recipe which can be tweaked to one’s preference as evidenced by the 36 different recipes recorded in Apicius’ recipe book De Re Coquinaria.

5. Posca

Winemaking was one of Ancient Rome’s biggest and most profitable industries and many times there was leftover wine that went bad or didn’t age properly, becoming vinegar or acetum instead. Luckily, the Romans were pretty good at repurposing their waste and so, they created posca from vinegar. The lower class and military circles enjoyed posca which was frowned upon by the elites due to its association with the poor. Posca was actually a mix of vinegar and wine with higher quality posca including honey, and spices like coriander.

 

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