Cenä Bene

"Dine Well"

  I. About Apicius, the famous Roman gourmet

Apicius was a first century author of De Re Coquinaria (On Cookery). There were three gastrophiles who bore this name in Imperial Rome. The first lived during the rise of Julius Caesar (d. 44 B. C.). The second taught haute cuisine under Augustus and Tiberius (27 B. C. - 37 B. C.), and enjoyed the reputation of a wealthy and decadent gourmet. The third Apicius lived during the reign of Trajan (98 - 117 A. D.)

By the end of the first century A. D., the name "Apicius" had already become a cliché for wealth. In short, "Apicius" is best regarded as a proverbial name for the greatest and most notorious of the Roman writers on cookery.

It is recorded that so great was Apicius' love of food that he poisoned himself for fear of dying of hunger.

II. It's easy to be a Roman Chef

Apicius used the secrets of ancient Roman and classical Greek cuisine. Roman cookery is delicious and not difficult. We today eat the same green vegetables, meats, poultry, and the same seafood as the classical Europeans. They cooked in metal and clay on charcoal and wood stoves, and we use electricity or gas, a difference of convenience. Most of the spices are identical to theirs, not surprisingly, since the Greeks and Romans popularized them in the first place. They introduced the West to pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves through the expansion of their sea trade routes into Asia.

List of herbs used by Romans:
  • aniseed
  • lovage (a leafy herb imitated by celery leaves)
  • celery seed
  • oregano
  • sage
  • coriander
  • parsley
  • savory
  • cumin
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • juniper
  • rue

The main difference between us and the Romans is the style. Apicius based his famous sauces on the balance between crushed green herbs and ground spices. Lovage, oregano, and thyme, for example, are matched by pepper, cumin, and coriander. To these seasonings he added a second level of flavors, the sweetness of a little honey and the sourness of a spoonful of vinegar. In slightly more elaborate recipes he used a third element: raisins, dates, or plums appear beside almonds, walnuts, or chestnuts. Then everything is cooked in the wine and stock appropriate for the particular meat, seafood, or vegetable.

There were also very festive dishes, some with rich stuffings. Herbs, spices, fruits, and nuts season ground meats and bread crumbs, and all are bound with egg, and cooked inside the poultry, suckling lamb, or kid.

III. About the Recipes

The Romans of the first century A. D. enjoyed foods which were very sweet and highly spiced. The recipes included in this section contain moderate use of herbs and spices, but Apicius' recipes easily lend themselves to experimentation. So do not be afraid to experiment with the herbs and spices, or by using the sauces to accompany different foods.

IV. Some Favorite Modern Roman Meals

(Recipes for these dishes and more will follow)

Luncheons or Light Dinners

I.

Hors d'oeuvres

Fish-pickle Cheese Hors d'oeuvres

Main dish

Nut Omelet (Served with a Spinach Salad)

You can wake up a salad by combining finely chopped rosemary (or rue), celery leaves (or lovage), oregano, and pepper, with an oil and vinegar dressing.


II.

Hors d'oeuvres

Stuffed Sardines

Main dish

Spinach Quiche

Vegetable

Chilled Peas Vinaigrette

Dessert

Sliced Apples, Plums, Pears, Cherries, and Strawberries with Vanilla Ice Cream


III.

Hors d'oeuvres

Lobster or Crabmeat in Cumin Sauce

All Kinds of Shellfish

Main dish

Cold Roast Duck with Cold Sauce Apicius

Vegetable

Beans Vitellian with Leeks and Fennel (Served with Small Buttered New Potatoes)

Dessert

Pears (Served with Nuts) Cooked with Cinnamon


IV.

Hors d'oeuvres

Lamb Chops in a Simple Sauce

Vegetable

Squash in Oregano Wine Sauce (Served with a simple Salad)

Dessert

Roman Custard


Dinners

I.

Hors d'oeuvres

Dates Alexandrine

Main dish

Bakes Salmon (or Cod) in Caraway Date Sauce (Served with Broccoli in a standard Cheese and Parsley Sauce)

Dessert

Chilled Blackberries in a sweet red wine


II.

Hors d'oeuvres

Mussel Forcemeat Sausage Canapés

Main dish

Frontinian Pork with Anise and Chives (Served with Baked Potatoes and Sour Cream, and Streamed Carrot Strips Spiced with Cumin)

Dessert

Pears Cooked with Cinnamon and Wine


III.

Soup

Vegetable and Lentil Soup

Main dish

Stuffed Roast Lamb (Served with Boiled Small New Potatoes)

Vegetable

Green Beans in Coriander Sauce

Dessert

Cheese and Assorted Nuts

This is a classical feast for special occasions, like the last day of school

before Christmas or Spring Break.


IV.

Hors d'oeuvres

Fish-pickle Cheese Hors d'oeuvres

Main dish

Rabbit Stuffed with Liver or Sausage (Could substitute Chicken for Rabbit)
(Served with Steamed Squash, Boiled Small New Potatoes, and a Spinach Salad)

Dessert

Trifle or Berries with Whipped Cream


IV. Ideas for Preparation

  • Arrange to exchange rooms with a home economics' teacher for preparation of food items. Or perhaps the Latin I and home economics class could prepare a meal as a joint project; planning, purchasing, preparation, consuming and clean-up. You may have funds available at your school for the grocery shopping. Consider inviting staff members. This would call for invitations! Video tape your event and send a copy to me to share with the rest of our class. (I would return the video upon request.)
  • Let the students decide on their choice of food items, prepare the food at home, and bring to you the morning of the planned event. This may require the use of a refrigerator/microwave.
  • Host a Latin Night during Open House or encourage the other foreign languages to host a Foreign Language Night.

Display: Student's class work (notebooks, flashcard vocabularies, etc.)

Student projects: (posters promoting the language, of language charts, on cultural information, or maps, foods, costumes, songs, skits, etc.)

Make a Display for Your Banquet

Choose your design: the " culina " (kitchen). or the " triclinium " (dining room) scene. If you have access to a xerox machine, you can divide the picture into sections, enlarge each, paste together onto bulletin board paper. Next color it using tempera paints, large markers, or chalks.

 

From: Apicius: The Roman Cookery Book