Why am I posting about the Romans on a site dedicated to re-creating a woman of the Renaissance (Venice/ Ferrara/ Florence 1400-1600)? Because Giata would have been obsessed with these tidbits as well 🙂
Of course, we have more information about the Romans than those curious Renaissance ragazzi. In the spirit of anachronism I do not limit my posts based on what the women of the Renaissance knew, but I base my posts on things that they wore, said, did, and would have liked to know. That being said:
Roman Cooking for Anachronists
According to Marty Grant, an owner of Gascoyne Place in Bath and one of the creators of the Roman Britian-inspired menu for the Great Bath Feast, Roman cooking was actually quite similar to some modern techniques.
The Romans used a lot of smoking techniques as well as pickling, curing, and salting. Seasonal food such as sea bass, wild mushrooms and beetroot are what Romans in Britain would have been eating he says, along with imported favourites such as figs. Every-day food such as pears, damsons, cherries, lettuce, cabbage and broad beans – all previously unknown foods in Britain – were introduced by the Romans. And wealthy settlers are credited with popularising “luxury” flavours such as coriander and black pepper.
Two thousand years ago, most people in Britain were cooking pottage (a thick soup or stew). But after the Roman invasion in 43 AD the elite were dining on carefully presented three course meals. Roman cooks are thought to have taken great pains over the way their dishes looked. “They moved more away from the common stew pot. With the Romans you’re moving more towards presentation of various dishes,” says Meghann Mahoney, one of Dr Thomas’ PhD students at the University of Leicester.
Table etiquette was important to the Romans, but bears no resemblance to British dining today. It was much more like feasting in Greece, Turkey, India or China: a big selection of dishes… no nervousness about spices; always plenty to choose from, always something new arriving. Delicacies included dormice and a fish sauce condiment made from fermented fish offal as well as more familiar fruits, vegetables and meat.
The most famous of the surviving Roman cookbooks books is De Re Coquinaria (On Cooking) attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius, who is thought to have lived during the 1st Century. The manuscript, containing around 450 recipes, gives no clue of ingredient amounts but is often used to in attempts to recreate Roman food.
Any Roman-inspired banquet would be incomplete without the presence of wine!
The Romans were responsible for spreading knowledge and appreciation of wine throughout the empire. Earlier this year, archaeologists in Italy started to make wine exactly as the Romans did, following ancient manuscripts and using terracotta pots. For his Roman-inspired feast, Marty Grant served white wine made from an ancient Roman recipe. But to suit modern tastes he mixed the sweet, fortified liquid with prosecco.
“Roman wines were sweeter, and spiced and fortified to preserve them,” he explains. Roman wines were actually fortified till about 20%. So if you drank it neat it would be like having a martini or a glass of port. I would love to try this on my next trip to Italy 🙂
Source: BBC Food