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:
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
Fish-pickle Cheese Hors d'oeuvres
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.
Chilled Peas Vinaigrette
Sliced Apples, Plums, Pears, Cherries, and Strawberries with Vanilla Ice Cream
Lobster or Crabmeat in Cumin Sauce
All Kinds of Shellfish
Cold Roast Duck with Cold Sauce Apicius
Beans Vitellian with Leeks and Fennel (Served with Small Buttered New Potatoes)
Pears (Served with Nuts) Cooked with Cinnamon
Lamb Chops in a Simple Sauce
Squash in Oregano Wine Sauce (Served with a simple Salad)
Bakes Salmon (or Cod) in Caraway Date Sauce (Served with Broccoli in a standard Cheese and Parsley Sauce)
Chilled Blackberries in a sweet red wine
Mussel Forcemeat Sausage Canapés
Frontinian Pork with Anise and Chives (Served with Baked Potatoes and Sour Cream, and Streamed Carrot Strips Spiced with Cumin)
Pears Cooked with Cinnamon and Wine
Vegetable and Lentil Soup
Stuffed Roast Lamb (Served with Boiled Small New Potatoes)
Green Beans in Coriander Sauce
Cheese and Assorted Nuts
This is a classical feast for special occasions, like the last day of school
before Christmas or Spring Break.
Fish-pickle Cheese Hors d'oeuvres
Rabbit Stuffed with Liver or Sausage (Could substitute Chicken for
Trifle or Berries with Whipped Cream
IV. Ideas for Preparation
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