Skip to comments.Dinner At Piso's: Ancient Romans ate meals most Americans would recognize
Posted on 02/07/2015 9:01:27 AM PST by SunkenCiv
Let's pretend it is 56 B.C. and you have been fortunate enough to be invited to a party at the home of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a great social coup. Piso, after all, was Julius Caesar's father-in-law and a consul of Rome...
You need to prepare for pig. Archaeologists studying the eating habits of ancient Etruscans and Romans have found that pork was the staple of Italian cuisine before and during the Roman Empire. Both the poor and the rich ate pig as the meat of choice, although the rich, like Piso, got better cuts, ate meat more often and likely in larger quantities.
They had pork chops and a form of bacon. They even served sausages and prosciutto; in other words, a meal not unlike what you'd find in Rome today -- or in South Philadelphia...
MacKinnon and Trentacoste are zooarchaeologists... They rummaged through ancient garbage dumps or middens, and occasionally even ancient latrines looking for the bones of animals and fish people ate. People would sometimes dump the garbage in the latrine... can deduce a great deal from the bones about what life was like.
They also can often piece together a typical diet based on recovered porcelain shards.
They can look at bones in a dump and can tell what the animal was, sometimes how it was slaughtered, where it came from, and how the food supply worked...
Zooarchaeologists also have literary evidence of what was eaten from writers such as Juvenal and the poet Martial, often in satirical plays where writers mocked the ostentatious indulgence...
Some historians believed the lower class was mostly vegetarian but that is not true... generally ate the same things the upper class did, but not the same cuts (think mutton versus lamp chops) and probably not in the same quantities.
(Excerpt) Read more at insidescience.org ...
Yum! A pig Roasted on a spit over coals!
Italian food with no beans, no tomatoes, no squash, no chocolate, no vanilla, no corn, no peppers. Yeah. Just like today...
Make sure to stick around afterward for the orgy.
Except the women looked like Helen Thomas.
“You need to prepare for pig. Archaeologists studying the eating habits of ancient Etruscans and Romans have found that pork was the staple of Italian cuisine before and during the Roman Empire.”
Makes sense. Pigs have always been very efficient livestock in terms of feed and land. It was not uncommon in Medieval times to simply turn them loose in forests and what not. The pig will find his dinner. Plus, they taste really good spit-roasted, LOL.
“One legend is true, MacKinnon said: Vomitoriums. There might be so much food at Piso’s table, and everyone would want to indulge. To make room, they would excuse themselves from the table and purge.”
Slightly disagree here. Purging did happen at some of the super fancy meals of the very wealthy (regular citizens and slaves probably not so much), but the vomitorium structure itself wasn’t a designated upchuck station. It was a large hallway/passage in public arenas, designed to allow crowds to exit quickly. Kind of like a main gate at a football stadium or what not.
Prosciutto (pro SHOOT oh; or, in the Sicilian dialect often heard in America, "pr ZHOOT")
Sopressata (soh pres SAH toe, or in Sicilian, "SZOOP eh sahdt")
Capicola (cah pee CO la; or, "gobba GOOL")
Roast pork sandwich on Italian roll with broccoli rabe
Italian Market festival
Wasn’t Prosciutto di Parma once banned from import to the U.S.?
I remembered it from living in Naples. Bellissimo!
It is said that they had music back then but that has been lost to posterity due to the fact that we had not invented musical notation yet.
Perhaps not a full fledged gourmet kitchen with a dozen cooks but even the poorest of the poor could start a fire and cook their meals. If they were buying from vendors, then that's a big reason they were poor.
Only the wealthy were able to broil or barbecue.
Finding that hard to believe, too. A stick over an open fire and there's your bbq. Bury that pig in a hole and you've got yourself another type of bbq. Last I heard a hole in the ground and a stick don't cost a thing.
Nelle anni 1968-1971. Mi padre era colonello della escercito Americano con il sede centrale AFSOUTH. Io ero solo visitante in gli estanti.
Il apartamento suo era sopre la Via Petrarca con magnifica panorama della Baia di Napoli, Vesuvio e isola di Capri.
“Vedi Napoli e poi muori!”
Wood was hard to come by. Much of the area around Rome had been deforested (the Romans deforested many parts of their favorite colony, Spain, using wood either for firewood or for making charcoal for their BBQs). But at a certain point, you run out of easily available wood, and then cooking over fire becomes something the poor can’t afford. Hence, it was always normal and cheaper to buy already cooked food or to prepare your own and take it to a communal oven for cooking. This was even true in mediaeval Europe.
The Romans were good at “reusing” heat, though; the communal bakery ovens had water tanks on top, and the water heated by the baking process was then redirected through pipes to fill the baths. They also used it for radiant heating under their floors.
In their apartments?
Fire was a big problem in Rome so most of the apartments where the poor lived did not have fireplaces. Firewood would also be a major expense.
This was the reason most food was bought pre-made. Yes it was more expensive then raw but not as expensive as doing it yourself.
Not to mention taking the chance of burning the place you lived down.