What Did Ancient Romans Eat?

11.10.2021.

The Romans, well known gourmets who took great pleasure in good food and drink, have left quite a mark in history. Unlike the poor people who have fed on grains, the upper-class members have indulged in an abundance of delicious dishes served at posh events. So far history has written many stories and hereby we present one of ancient Rome and its gastronomy.

Wealthy Romans knew how to enjoy food, but not quite like how we are used to. According to ancient scripts, their breakfast consisted of a slice of bread or a pancake with honey that they had in their room, just like the wine they used to drink in the morning. Breakfast was followed by lunch at 11 am, which was usually a light meal consisting of bread, cheese and at times a piece of meat. As we know, the Romans mostly ate vegetables and fruit. Where are hedonist pleasures in that, you must be wondering?! Well, the pleasure was, like everything else, tied to – cena, the main meal which they had in the late afternoon. When the master of the house was alone, he would enjoy this meal for one hour and when he had company the ritual would take up to four hours! This meal, that would be considered a feast today, consisted of several sequences of selected dishes. Except for wine, that was poured in unlimited quantity, on festive, sumptuous platters one could find fish and shellfish dishes, crabs, eels, blackbirds and other birds, as well as various roasts and entrails, all accompanied by chickpeas, barley or lentils-based side dishes and desserts. The special aroma of their dishes came from garum—a supplement rich in umami that was made from fermented fish and roe. Dishes were also rich in spices, mainly pepper, parsley, bay leaf, garlic, cardamon, coriander. In addition, salty dishes were often seasoned with honey and boiled must. Today we compliment the chef and the host by cleaning our plate. The Romans, however, showed their gratitude by taking leftovers for home. The feast was followed by dinner prior to bedtime. It was usually only bread and fruit. Interestingly, they ate in a semi-recumbent position as they considered it beneficial for digestion, just like the olive oil that was one of the indispensable ingredients in their kitchen.

One of the famous Romans was emperor Diocletian, well-remembered in our region. After the resignation, he has found peace in gardening and vegetable planting. According to the legend, he had refused to rule the empire again because he had deeply cherished the peace and happiness he had found in planting cabbage.

Apparently, happiness indeed is in little things, even for great leaders. For a true hedonist pleasure of ancient Rome incited by high-quality ingredients and tasty dishes, make a reservation at Laganini. You’ll enjoy our dishes as much as the Romans themselves!

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