Are you curious what consists the Roman diet in ancient times? Generally, the Romans ate the usual provisions found in their area. The most basic items in their meal were barley, olive oil, and wine. Scholars call this The Mediterranean Triad. Before becoming an empire roman food was simple. In fact laws were passed against lavishness especially with what they eat. However, as the kingdom grew and became an empire ruling the Western part of the world their taste for food evolved and developed as well.
Over time ancient roman food recipes changed as eating habits became influenced by Grecian culture. As Rome expanded its political power over the ancient world Romans also were exposed to different kinds of food and cooking techniques from all over the globe. Before their expansion, there was little difference with the kinds of food that rich and poor Romans ate. However, as the empire grew so did the disparities between classes which of course included food.
Marked difference in roman food
Aside from the basic food in ancient Rome rich people were also able to include meat in their diet. They had beef, pork, poultry, fowl, lamb, and fish. The more exotic the food the better it was for rich Romans. In fact, the taste of the food was just secondary in importance as compared with how exotic or how complicated it was to prepare. Wine was also an essential element in a Roman’s meal and more importantly it was also constantly flowing. On the other hand, ordinary citizens in ancient Rome made do with the Mediterranean Triad as well as a variety of vegetables and fruits which they grow themselves. For the poor masses every meal consisted mainly of grains cooked as porridge or made into bread. Although rich Romans still eat porridge there is a significant difference with the ingredients. Based on old roman foods recipes an elaborate porridge will include fresh cheese, honey, and egg other than a choice of barley, wheat, or oats all mixed thoroughly and cooked in a pot. A simple porridge on the other hand consists of wheat, water, and milk boiled until creamy thick.
The roman food for the ientaculum
People of ancient Rome had their first meal at early dawn. This is called the ientaculum or the equivalent of breakfast in modern times. The roman food prepared this early in the day is usually bread made out of a variety of wheat called emmer. Based on roman food history this is the staple food for the Romans during the ancient times. However the rich will also include eggs, cheese, honey, milk, and fruit along with the bread. The ingredients for the loaf are very basic. It contains emmer, some yeast, honey, olive oil, and salt. Those who can afford to buy spices will put in a dash of rosemary too.
Greek influence on roman food
Before being influenced by other cultures Romans only had three meals in a day first is the ientaculum, then a light lunch or prandium just before the sun is at its zenith, followed with a light supper in the early evening called Vasperna and dinner which is the main course called Coena. However, with the influence of the Greeks and the growing wealth of Rome Vasperna was not practiced by the rich anymore as the Coena became more like a dinner party that goes on for hours. By this time, Coena was done early in the afternoon extending until late evening depending on the number of guests in the house. The lower class however retained the traditional mealtime since the time suits their work schedule better.
Gustatio – The first course
Coena is a very elaborate mealtime. Delicious roman food was served in three courses with wine capping the night. However, there is no stopping the owner and guests to partake wine all throughout the meal. Based on roman food facts the gustatio or the first course usually consists of an egg dish that serves as an appetizer. An example of which would be the boiled eggs with pine nut sauce. The main attraction in this popular roman food is the sauce. In ancient times, the pine nut was soaked in vinegar overnight. This makes the nuts very soft for cooking the next day. The pine nut dashed with a little salt, some honey, and spiced up with pepper added with just enough water are boiled all together until the sauce thickens to taste.
Primae Minsae – the main course
Meat is served in the main course. Aside from the usual meat variety birds are also a very popular choice especially the peacock because it is very expensive. Boiled ostrich was another favorite where the meat along with pepper, mint, and roasted cumin, as well as dates, celery seeds, olive oil, honey, and a little vinegar were all boiled together. The essence of this roman food is more about the sauce since ancient Roman cooks serve sauces in most if not all the dishes they prepare. Most often the sauce does not have any distinguishing taste. Which suits the Romans fine for as long as the dish itself is exotic. Fish and shellfish are also a must in a Roman’s main course. Again this recipe will have a sauce in it. An example is the roast tuna. The fish itself is cooked simply as it is just roasted. However, the more important aspect in this roman food is the pottage which is a mixture of pepper, mint, onion, as well as a little oil and vinegar.
Secundae Mensae – the dessert
Desserts in ancient roman food consist of baked sweets, fresh nuts and fruits. The master of the house and his guests will feast on almonds, grapes, and dates among others. Ancient Roman chefs would make a dessert out of roasted pine nuts. After peeling and chopping the nuts into handy pieces they will pour in some honey, pepper, garum or fermented fish sauce, milk, undiluted wine, and oil. Then add some eggs for the final touch. Sweets like cheesecakes and tarts were also popular.