Feasting like an Emperor: What Romans Ate During the Roman Empire
Sooooo, how often do you think about the Roman Empire? You've probably seen this latest viral trend everywhere - and we did too! But at IMPASTIAMO, our primary focus is food (in any form and any variation), so we couldn't betray our original and purest intentions. Instead, we decided to dig into the past and find out what people ate during the Roman Empire (did they think about food constantly, like us?).
When we think about dining in the Roman Empire, our minds often conjure images of toga-clad aristocrats reclining on lavish couches, indulging in extravagant banquets. And while that may be partially true, Roman cuisine was a diverse blend of flavors and ingredients that catered to the tastes of both the wealthy and the common folk. Join us on a culinary journey through the heart of ancient Rome as we explore the tantalizing dishes and drinks that graced their tables.
A Breadbasket of the Empire
Bread was the cornerstone of the Roman diet. The common man's daily sustenance came in the form of a rustic loaf, often dipped in wine for added flavor. The affluent, on the other hand, enjoyed a variety of bread made from finer grains, sometimes even flavored with spices. A favorite treat was "libum," a sweet cheesecake-like bread often offered to the gods as a sacrifice.
Olives: The Roman Superfood
Olives were a dietary staple for the Romans, consumed in various forms. They enjoyed them fresh, pickled, or pressed into oil. Olive oil was a versatile ingredient used in almost every aspect of cooking, from sautéing to salad dressings. Its rich, fruity flavor added depth to many dishes and was cherished for its supposed health benefits.
Romans loved their grapes, not just for their fruit but for the wine they produced. The empire boasted a vast variety of wines, each with its own distinct character. Red wines like Falernian were robust and potent, while white wines like Apianum were lighter and sweeter. Wine wasn't just for sipping; it was often diluted with water and enjoyed throughout the day, even by children.
The Meat of the Matter
Meat was a symbol of wealth and status in Roman society. The wealthy indulged in an array of meats, including poultry, pork, and lamb. They adored exotic meats like peacock and flamingo, which showcased their extravagant tastes. Commoners typically ate less meat, but it still played a significant role in their diet, especially during festivals.
Seafood from Every Corner
With a vast empire spanning three continents, Romans had access to an incredible variety of seafood. Coastal regions offered everything from oysters to octopus, and salted fish was a common pantry staple. Garum, a fermented fish sauce, was akin to modern-day ketchup, used liberally to season and enhance the flavor of dishes.
From Earth to Table: Vegetables and Herbs
Vegetables and herbs found their way into Roman kitchens, where they were celebrated for their medicinal and culinary properties. Popular vegetables included cabbage, leeks, and asparagus. Fresh herbs like basil, oregano, and coriander added layers of flavor to dishes.
The Romans had a sweet tooth, and their desserts were a delightful affair. Honey was a prized sweetener, drizzled generously over fruits and pastries. One of their favorite sweets was "mustaceum," a cake made with grape must, which lent a rich, fruity flavor.
The Fluid Elixir: Water and More
Water was the daily drink for most Romans, sourced from aqueducts that crisscrossed the empire. They believed that mixing water with wine helped purify it, so it was common to see wine diluted before consumption. Apart from wine, they enjoyed barley water, fruit juices, and even a beverage called "posca," a mixture of vinegar and water.
As you can see, dining during the Roman Empire was a vibrant tapestry of flavors, showcasing the influence of diverse cultures that comprised the empire. From the simplicity of bread and olives to the opulence of exotic meats and fine wines, the Romans knew how to savor life's pleasures at the dining table. So, the next time you sit down to enjoy a Mediterranean-inspired meal, raise a glass to the culinary legacy of ancient Rome. Cheers, or as the Romans would say, "Salute!"