The cuisine of ancient Rome. What do we know about the diet of the ancient Romans?

antica roma

Rome today offers endless opportunities for choice when it comes to restaurants. You can range from the trattorias of typical Roman cuisine, passing through the sliced pizzerias and fast food, vegan restaurants, luxury and gourmet ones, up to ethnic cuisine restaurants (Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Thai, Mexican etc.). It all depends solely on personal tastes and preferences of the moment. The ancient Romans naturally could not count on the variety of choices of today. However, the foods were not that different from those we consume today on a typical day.

Let's take a dive back in time and try - with the help of what historians have discovered - to imagine the meals of our predecessors.

The breakdown of meals: jentaculum, prandium And coena

The Romans also ate three meals a dayThe breakfast, call jentaculum, era a frugal meal based on bread, milk, cheese, honey, fruit or often leftovers from the previous day. Then there was the lunchprandium in Latin – a meal that consisted of a quick cold snack often eaten while standing where vegetables, olives, eggs and fruit were usually eaten. The main meal was dinner (coena) which was held at a time comparable to lunch for us. In fact, after having been at the spa, around 3-4 pm and until sunset and beyond, the ancient Romans began to enjoy the pleasures of food.

Initially dinner was a light meal but then in the imperial era it became one of the main moments of the day, a symbol of opulence and wealth especially for the higher classes. In fact, dinners could last for hours and consist of dozens and dozens of courses eaten with the hands and comfortably lying on triclinates, although with very large differences based on social class.

Apicius' recipe book and typical foods

Apicius, a well-known gastronome and gourmet (with various greedy excesses) of the imperial age, wrote a cookbook called De re coquinaria from which we can draw many curiosities and news about the cuisine of ancient Rome. Legumes, vegetables, cereals, cheeses, fruit and meat were the foods mainly consumed by the ancient Romans, always accompanied by del good wine and pays great attention to the properties of food for the well-being of the body.

Dishes that the Romans were really crazy about? Spelled polenta, cabbage, asparagus often eaten with eggs; and cinnamon, with many uses. With the conquest of the East and therefore the discovery of new peoples with different customs and products available, Roman cuisine was then enriched with spicy, spicy and sweet-sour flavors and a greater propensity for abundance. The Romans used the garum, a spicy sauce made with salted fish mash and entrails that went with it plates of meat. Meat often cooked several times first in water, then in milk, in oil and finally in spices. Mushrooms with honey, pigeons with dates and marinated peaches were dishes with strong and decisive flavors, much loved but consumed only by the upper classes.

The love of wine

There was no meal in ancient Rome that was not paired with a tasty wine chosen with care, consumed with some exaggeration but also inspiring reflections and poems. First thanks to refined cultivation of vines and then in the imperial age also thanks to wines imported from Greece and treated with clay or sea water to revive their taste. Often the wine was also drunk diluted with cold or hot water to mitigate its effect or with the addition of spices, honey or aromatic herbs. However, he was always considered an element of conviviality and consumed without distinctions of social class to cheer up every situation.

The diet of the ancient Romans was therefore not too different from ours. Certainly reduced in terms of possibilities, variety (it naturally did not foresee the many international foods that are now imported and have become typical of our diets) and food preparation methods, but still full of recipes that we could use even today, in today's Rome where we are spoiled for choice For decide what to eat every day.