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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cooking Roman Style

One of the most popular Education room activities we had this summer was a table filled with spices and oils that the Romans could have used. I swear, there were a dozen people and two camcorders around the table at one point! If you want to experience the tastes and smells of the Romans, it’s to set up at home.

A Roman Mortatium and Some Roman Herbs and Spices

Start by gathering herbs and spices which the Romans used - things like honey, lovage, rosewater, wine, olive oil, black pepper, mustard seed, garlic, sage, mint, coriander, thyme and salt. You probably have a lot of these in your cupboards already.

Romans mixed their spices (and their foods) a bit differently than we do today - how many recipes have YOU seen which call for you to pulp lettuce, then mix it into a batter to deep-fry it?*

Romans also used a few things which Western cooks usually don’t - the closest we have today for their fermented fish sauce, Garum, is Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla). Man, is it strong smelling! A few of their ingredients, like silphium, went extinct due to over harvesting.

Close your eyes and smell the ingredients you’ve gathered. Can you imagine a Roman kitchen? They would’ve grilled, boiled, fried and baked their foods, using hot coals in ovens. Many poor people would have only eaten food from takeaways - not everyone could afford a kitchen.

If you’re really ambitious, you could try cooking a Roman recipe! Apicius wrote a book of Roman Cookery, and experienced cooks may be able to get something out of his recipes. You can find translations here. Be warned, Apicius wasn’t too keen on writing down times and temperatures, just ingredients and a sketchy ‘how-to’ guide.

Lots of people have made modern versions of Roman recipes - I’d recommend checking out Mark Grant’s book Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens, or The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. Who knows? You might find a new-old favourite!

* There’s a recipe for Seasoned Fritters made out of lettuce on page 62 in Mark Grant’s book, Roman Cookery.


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