The Roman kitchen

The Roman kitchen
Food was apparently so important in ancient times, that a large number of classical authors were concerned with the subject. The most famous is Gavius ​​Marcus Apicius, author of “The re coquinaria”, or “things that matter to cooks”. Apicius was a true gourmand. He lived in the times of Emperor Tiberius in the first half of the first century AD.

The meal
The modern human being is bombarded with advice to eat a good breakfast. But the Romans had little time and just ate a simple breakfast or ientaculum. The breakfast consisted of bread, dipped in milk or wine, possibly with some honey, fruit puree or a piece of cheese, a few olives, a boiled egg or some fruit or nuts. Some people ate at home, others quickly ate something at one of the many bakeries in the cities. Many Italians still do so these days.
The lunch or prandium was also a simple meal. It was often too hot outside to cook something and most people quickly wanted to go to the bathhouse. They ate some bread or pulse, a herb cheese called moretum, or goat cheese with a little oil, vinegar and various spices including garlic and honey. Also eggs and fried eggs or omelette, possibly with honey and spices, mushrooms, olives, seasonal fruits or fruit preserves, dried fruits (dates, figs, cherries, apples) or pickled cherries (similar to amarena cherries) and nuts: beech nuts were eaten. While they drank thick milk, watered wine or fruit juice. The fat milk was possible a kind of yoghurt, quark or thickened or sour milk. After the meal the Romans went to the bathhouse, to swim, play sports, bathe and get a massage. Naturally the Romans got hungry there. Smart traders sold their snacks in Taberna’s near the bathhouses, including cookies, candy, marinated vegetables, or dried fruit and various types of meatballs, pate and sausages.

The supper was called cena. The word supper is actually a bit deceptive, because the meal started around 4 or 5 pm. Depending on the financial resources of the person in question, a small or a big meal was served. The urban poor every day hoped get an invitation from their patron. This deserves some explanation. Roman society had a patron-client system, the patron took care of its clients in exchange for various services or votes in elections. This could mean that the pattern assisted his client(s) and offered him protection, but also that the client received food. In the extreme this system was implemented by the Roman emperors who provided handouts of food and money on regular holidays, big plays or normal days.
The clients who got invited to dine with their patron were very fortunate. As is apparent from poems by Martial, it was allowed to bring home all sorts of left over dishes and appetizers. Often these cliques were eaten a day later as a breakfast or lunch. In this way a lot of clients had something to eat in exchange for support of their patron. Two inscriptions from Pompeii attest to this use:

“Someone with whom I do not eat, I consider a barbarian” (CIL VI 1880)

“May it go well with anyone who invites me for a meal” (CIL IV 1937)

Ad cenam! Around the table with Pax Romana
During the performances of Pax Romana, civilians cook delicious Roman dishes according to the authentic recipes of Apicius. We have spent the last eight years to gain a lot of experience in making Roman delicacies, snacks, and complete meals with many courses. It is of course not for the visitors to only look at. We want to share this delicious food with everyone who wants to try it.