Presentation on theme: "Cibus Romanus Food and Dining in Ancient Rome. 3 Meals a Day Ientaculum – morning (breakfast) meal. Usually very light – bread and water, occasionally."— Presentation transcript:
Cibus Romanus Food and Dining in Ancient Rome
3 Meals a Day Ientaculum – morning (breakfast) meal. Usually very light – bread and water, occasionally with fruit. prandium – noon (lunch) meal. Often purchased from a taberna. Generally still quite light – hot stew and bread, or leftover cold meat or cheese. cena – evening (dinner) meal. Generally by far the largest meal of the day. An intricate affair, especially for the wealthy, this could last hours and come in many courses with entertainment between.
The First Staple -- Grain Grain (frumentum) for human consumption was generally wheat, although barley was also widely grown. Don’t be confused by the British term ‘corn.’ Rome consumed vast amounts that had to be imported – by the time of Augustus, records indicate some 300,000 tons of grain being imported by sea every year. It was generally either milled into flour and baked into bread or (often for poorer Romans) cooked in a porridge. Roman citizens in the late Republic and Empire had access to cheap or free grain provided by the state.
The Second Staple – Olives Olives were widely grown through the Mediterranean, but some of the most important sources for Rome were Spain and North Africa. Olives were often eaten whole as today after pickling, but the most important use was to make olive oil. Oil was needed for many uses, including as a high-quality lamp oil or soap, but it was commonly used for food, either in cooking or to create sauces for food.
The Third Staple -- Grapes Grapes were, like olives, often eaten whole (or in this case, dried as raisins), but the most important use of grapes was to process them into wine. Romans drank a wide variety of wines, from well-aged vintages to common farmhouse wines. Wine may have been effective in keeping untreated water relatively sterile. It was always cut with water – generally in a 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, or even 4:1 ratio. A magister bibendi would choose the proportions at a drinking party. Romans very seldom drank beer. Honeyed drinks were popular.
Fruit and Nuts Romans ate fruit from around the Mediterranean world. These included apples, pears, plums, melons, and quinces, as well as apricots, peaches, and pomegranates. Cherries were available from the late Republic, brought back from Asia Minor. Lemons only arrived in the late Empire and the Romans had no other citrus fruits. Nuts were very popular on their own or with other food. They had almonds, filberts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and walnuts. There were no peanuts in ancient Rome.
Vegetables, Herbs, and Spices Even poor Romans often had access to vegetables, which could be grown in gardens or harvested wild. Herbs likewise often grow wild in the Mediterranean. Romans ate artichokes, carrots, asparagus, chicory, onions, beans, cucumbers, peas, beets, garlic, poppy seeds, cabbage, lentils, pumpkins, radishes, lettuce, mallows, and turnips. Romans had no tomatoes, hot or bell peppers, potatoes, or corn. Spices were used to flavour dishes and preserve meats. These were often from far away and could be extremely expensive. Black peppercorns in particular were often worth their weight in gold and would be served to show off your wealth.
Cheese and Eggs Romans seldom used cows as dairy animals, but did often use goat and sheep milk. However, since the Romans had no refrigeration, fresh milk would only be drunk by people who lived on or near the farms. Cheese was a very popular way to preserve milk and get protein. Eggs were also very popular served in a variety of ways. A fancy Roman dinner almost always began with an appetizer of eggs cooked with some sort of sauce or herbs.
Meat and Fish Meat and fish tended to be extremely expensive, so they were generally eaten by the rich, except when meat was distributed at religious festivals after the sacrifice. Beef was seldom eaten. The Romans perhaps like pork best, as well as fowl and game animals. Fish is actually relatively rare in the Mediterranean, so it was often extremely expensive. Meat and fish dishes were generally very heavily sauced in Roman cooking. The very strong sauce garum was very popular with Roman audiences – it was made by layering salt and small fish in a clay amphora, sealing the jug shut with clay or wax, and leaving it to liquify and ferment in the sun.
Honey and Sweets Romans did not have sugar, so they flavoured desserts and sweets with honey. Beekeeping was a very important part of Roman agriculture. Honey would be used to flavour drinks, pastries, and fruit. These dishes were often served at the end of the meal as a dessert.
Ab ovis usque ad mala The Roman dinner would be served in courses, starting with an appetizer (usually including eggs) and ending in a dessert (generally with fruit) – from this the Romans took the phrase ‘from the eggs to the apples’ – meaning ‘the whole deal,’ like the English ‘from soup to nuts.’ Romans would lie on couches in the triclinium to eat. This room was well decorated and often had mosaics on the floor.