Saturday, January 11, 2014

You are What you Eat: Roman Diet and Habits

Welcome to 2014!

As of the New Year, I am sure many of us have chosen to “lose weight” or “eat healthier” as a resolution. As there are many diets and trends to follow in order to lose weight; one of the most respectable ways is to eat healthy and exercise at 30 minutes a day. However, this was not the case for the Ancient Romans.
Popular Food
  1. Fruits- Figs
  2. Nuts
  3. Oil
  4. Wine (Watered Down; of course)
  5. Vegetables
  6. Breads
  7. Eggs
  8. Fish and Shellfish
  9. Garum
  10. Poultry
So far, food doesn’t seem that different from our traditional food. However, the tradition of watering down wine is a Greek custom in which “civilized” people would water down wine in order not to dull the senses. Garum is also a unique food condiment. Garum equivalent to the use that many have for ketchup was a type of fish sauce.  You can make your own recipe here.
Delicacies in Ancient Rome
  1. Snails
  2. Dormice
  3. Giraffe
The Giraffe is the latest find (Jan 5th, 2014 to be exact) by archaeologists. It was discovered in the drains of an ancient restaurant.
“This is thought to be the only giraffe bone ever recorded from an archaeological excavation in Roman Italy,” researcher Steven Ellis, of the University of Cincinnati, says. Read More on it here.
The rich and famous of Ancient Rome sure ate some interesting things. Would you be willing to eat certain exotic foods in order to lose weight or uphold status? More interesting recipes can be found in Apicius’ Cookbook. You can view the cookbook here.
CategoryLatinPrincipal PartsEnglish MeaningEnglish Derivative
Diningprandiumprandii n.lunch
ientaculumientaculi n.breakfast
cenacenae f.dinner
vespernasmall supper
prima mensamain course
Sanitas! Bona! Bene tibi Sit!Health, Good things, May it be well for you (sg.) AKA:Cheers!
EdamusLet’s Eat!
Laetitia omnibusHappiness to all!
secunda mensadessert
Mannerssi tibi placeatplease
gratias tibithank you
nihil estnot at all, ’tis nothing
ignosce mihiexcuse me
Foodpanispanis m.bread
potiopotionis f.beverage
sucussuci m.juice
aquaaquae f.water
laclactis n.milk
salsalis m.salt
carocaronis m.meat
bubulabubulae f.beef
porcinaporcinae f.pork
pulluspulli m.chicken
holusholeris n.vegetable
fructusfructüs m.fruit
solanum tubersumsolani n.potato

Where would people sit?
Reproduction of a triclinium.
Reproduction of a triclinium.
As I am sure many of the enthusiasts of this blog have seen ancient movies or ancient TV series. Do you recall Roman families dining at a table? Were they sitting upright? Reclining? Laying Down being fed grapes?  Most dining would occur in a room known as the triclinium. The Getty provides an insightful article on the details of where guests and hosts sat during dining parties in the triclinium.
What was it like?
As language lovers, we are constantly trying to understand the culture of the language which we pursue proficiency. However, with Latin as well as Ancient Greek, it is difficult to grasps a culture that is essential dead or no longer available outside history books or classroom settings. Albeit, primary sources aid in our ability to see a glimpse into history and indirectly into the habits of the ancients.
Paratae erant lactucae singulae, cochleae ternae, ova bina, halica cum mulso et nivenam hanc quoque computabis, immo hanc in primis quae perit in ferculo -, olivae betacei cucurbitae bulbi, alia mille non minus lauta. Audisses comoedos vel lectorem vel lyristen velquae mea liberalitasomnes. (Pliny the Younger; Letters 1.15.2)
I had provided for each guest one lettuce, three snails, two eggs, spelt mixed with honey and snow (you will please reckon up the cost of the latter as among the costly of all, since it melts away in the dish), olives from Baetica, cucumbers, onions, and a thousand other equally expensive dainties. You would have listened to a comedian, or a reciter, or a harp-player, or perhaps to all, as I am such a lavish host.
After each course fingers were washed again and napkins (mappae) were used to wipe one’s mouth. Guests could also bring their own mappae to take home the leftovers from the meal or small gifts (apophoreta). Since not everything could  be eaten (e.g. bones and shells), these were thrown onto the floor, whence it was swept away by a slave.
However, slaves were not always so capable of sweeping the floors (often mosaics) of triclinium. There is some proof that Roman households actually designed mosaics that were dirty and messy on purpose in order to hide any food thrown on the floor. The Getty has a conservation project in order to restore some of these mosaics; which can be found here.
The video is a fun little note to leave off on about a Roman emperors and dining with them. I do hope you enjoy! It has been fun writing on such a topic and I do hope it was resourceful.

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