Cibī Romanī


I love learning about Roman food and tying it into classroom activities. Therefore, I will take this opportunity to review a few websites on Roman food, which are accessible to all and you may find useful or simply interesting.

I. Pass the Garum – This is one of my favorite sites. It includes several examples of Roman recipes with helpful suggestions on how to make them. It was the first site that I ever found on the topic of Roman cuisine, and it kept me coming back.  The author discusses not only the food in question but also ties in history and ancient sources. The page also Tweets! As with many other modern renderings of Roman cuisine, the author takes recipes from ancient sources (like Apicius), which tend to be very vague with quantities, and gets more specific for the convenience of the modern home coquus. The citations are also helpful and illuminating, although I admit, I have not source-checked all of the ancient authors. New posts are not very frequent, but I think you will still find the content intriguing!

II. Ancient Roman Recipes – This article by Carla Raimer, which originally appeared for a NOVA program on the Roman Empire, explains a host of recipes tailored from various reputable sources. Raimer includes short but descriptive reviews of each dish as well as detailed recipes. She also offers some interesting modern twists on ancient favorites, for instance, this recipe for what I’ll term pho-liquamen:

Modern Garum Recipe

Cook a quart of grape juice, reducing it to one-tenth its original volume. Dilute two tablespoons of anchovy paste in the concentrated juice and mix in a pinch of oregano.”

Yum!

III. Do you yearn to delve into the original Latin? Fear not! At least one version of Apicius’s works is online (through the Latin Library) and a full length ebook on the works attributed to Apicius and other Roman authors in the culinary tradition is available through Project Gutenberg (Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome by Joseph Dommers Vehling).

IV. Lastly, I will link this article by Stephanie Pappas: “Most Ancient Romans Ate Like Animals” It proposes interesting points about how common Romans ate, drawing from conclusions of modern forensic science and archeological research. Pappas points out that, rather than the sumptuous and complex recipes we know and love, most rural Romans subsided on grains, like millet, now commonly used for birdseed. While the title is clickbait-esque, and you could argue that millet is a perfectly good grain for humans to consume (not simply for birdseed!), Pappas makes the sound point that the written record of Roman food cannot tell the complete culinary history of Rome.