Did you ever wonder what the ancient romans where having for lunch? Or perhaps dinner?
I know I have and that’s why I went on a little Internet adventure, around some roman restaurants and did some digging about these delicious dishes I’m about to show you.
We all know the Italian Cuisine is one of the best and most delicious out there but what about the Roman Cuisine?
That’s right – romans have their own specialties ( like any other region from Italy ).
Some of the most famous plates are Spaghetti alla Carbonara ( one of my favorites ), Pasta Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana, Carciofi alla Romana ( delicious ), Coda alla Vaccinara, Supplì, Roman-style Pizza and many other delicious dishes.
But wait, we were talking about ancient Roman cuisine, right? ( I got distracted with all these deliziose dishes ).
The ancient romans had the ientaculum ( which is breakfast ) served at dawn, at mid-day they had cena ( lunch ) which was the main meal of the day and a light night supper called vesperna which later was changed to prandium. With importation of foreign food, the cena grew larger in size which made the vesperna to be abandoned completely over the course of the years
For most of the romans, the breakfast was really simple: a glass of water or leftover from the night before. As for the poor class of Romans, they usually didn’t eat at home for prandium – instead, they were going to a place called tabernae where they could eat bread with simple side dishes such as boiled eggs, cheese, vegetables accompanied by wine mixed with hot water during winter and cold during summer.
To flavor their food, they used a spice called garum which is a liquid sauce made of fish under salt, especially head anchovies under salt with aromatic herbs
If you think about it, the breakfast that Romans do today is not that different from their ancestors: they usually have a cup of coffee and a croissant accompanied by a small glass of water.
Cena was the main meal of the day. In earlier times, it was held at midday, but later began to be held in evenings. For the rich people, cena was held in a special room called triclinium which was a very wide room, three couches for reclining arranged as three sides of a square, with a small table for food in the middle of all these.
The feast would consist of 3 parts: gustatio which is the appetizer course which often included eggs, olives and honeyed wine; primae mensae which is the main course often included main meat dish like roasted pig.
The wine was normally mixed with water before drinking it since the fermentation was not controlled and the alcohol grade was high. There were also multiple flavors of wine like: passum ( a strong and sweet raisin wine), mulsum (a freshly made mixture of wine and honey) and conditium ( a mix of wine, honey and spices).
For the lower class and staple part of the Roman soldiers, the common wine was a sour wine mixed with water and herbs.
The beer was considered vulgar and associated with barbarians so it wasn’t a fan favorite.
The last part of cena was secundae mensae which would be the dessert; usually was made of fruits with seafood or nuts.
For me, all these are fascinating details, getting to know how the ancient life was in Rome, what they were eating, makes me want to discover even more this beautiful and unique country full of delicious history, beautiful architectures and amazing people.
As they say “When in Rome, eat as the romans.”