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Table of Contents
Over time, ancient Roman cuisine changed due to political changes. Like its expanding territory, a Roman menu also altered culinary habits and cooking methods. The three meals of the day in ancient Rome were ientaculum (breakfast), prandium (lunch), and cena (dinner).
See the fact file below for more information on Roman Food or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Roman Food worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
GEOGRAPHY OF ROME
- The ancient Roman civilization thrived for over 1,000 years due to its geographical features. Rome is located on the Italian Peninsula near the Mediterranean Sea. The second largest river in Italy, the Tiber River, flows along with Rome.
- Facing west is the Tyrrhenian Sea, while on the northeast is the Alps and Apennine mountain ranges which served as a barrier for Rome from foreign invaders. It also isolated Rome from other cities in the peninsula.
- Due to geographical proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, ancient Romans traded with people in Greece, Northern Africa, and Europe. Their access to the body of water made the Romans great shipbuilders.
- In addition to its economy, Rome’s geographical location greatly affected their diet. Archaeological findings suggest the existence of lentils, coriander, dill, legumes, nuts, cabbage, chickpeas, and flax.
- A diverse variety of fish and shellfish were also found.
METHODS OF COOKING
- Using brine, vinegar, grape juice, or honey, fruits and vegetables were pickled to increase shelf life.
- Ancient Roman homes had focus or hearths built into the wall. With the introduction of separate kitchens, the focus was used for religious purposes. At Pompeii, kitchens were usually small, and they had portable stoves and grills. Similar to a courtyard, some kitchens had no roofs to allow smoke.
- Before the 12th century BCE, bakeries were the only establishments with chimneys. It became common in private dwellings after that.
- There can be two ovens or furnus made of brick or stone in large dwellings.
- The most common cooking methods in ancient Rome were roasting, broiling, and boiling.
- From bakeries to common households, people baked bread.
- A cookbook entitled De Re Coquinaria was written by Apicius, a young Roman elite. His book highlights over 500 dinner recipes consumed by the upper-class and elites of Roman society. People regarded cena or dinner as the heaviest and most expensive meal of the day. Some had fecula or seven food courses for dinner.
- Most wealthy families eat caput cenae, which would have been meat, fish, and other exotic animals such as peacocks or ostrich.
- The four main staple food in ancient Rome included vegetables, wine, cereals, and olive oil. The poorer population usually ate dried peas and porridge, while the richer Romans enjoyed meat and fish.
- A macellum is a market where the Roman could buy food. Meanwhile, some could eat in cauponae or inns and drink in popinae or taverns.
- Wine was the most common food to connect to their gods in the Roman way. It was also a practical method to purify their water. They laced wine with spices and honey.
- For breakfast, ancient Romans ate bread and salt, occasionally with cheese and fruit. For lunchtime, fish or eggs with vegetables was common.
- Those who could afford it often had extravagant and hours long cena or dinner.
- Gustatio or the first course of a dinner meal was usually served with eggs, dormice and olives, and shellfish, paired with mulsum or wine diluted in water with honey. Meanwhile, the main dish was usually meat or fish. Eating exotic food was a symbol of wealth in ancient Rome.
- While the rich people could generally afford many foods such as meat, seafood, cheese, and wine, all Romans enjoyed bread every day regardless of social status.
- Romans grew their beans, mushrooms, turnips, cabbages, onions, asparagus, and peas. Apples, grapes, and figs were also available.
- Poultry such as boar, deer, and rabbit were good alternatives for mutton, pork, and goat. Because of its irregular supply, fish were usually preserved. The guts of a fish and small fish are fermented with salt to make garum or fish sauce, traditionally used in seasoning porridge and other meals. One of the largest producers of garum was Pompeii.
- In addition to locally grown fruits and vegetables, Romans gathered their food supply from mainland Italy and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
- While wild animals could be hunted in forests, grain was controlled by the state.
- From 123 CE, the state rationed about 33 kg of unmilled rice (frumentatio) to about 200,000 citizens per month.
- Unlike in Greece, beef was uncommon in Rome. Cows were prized for their milk and not their meat. For them, the meat of working animals such as cows and bulls is unappetizing and tough to eat.
- Another symbol of Roman aristocracy was dormice. Dormice were usually presented and eaten in front of dinner guests as a delicacy.
- Ancient Romans invested in oyster farming. Moreover, they also had snail and oak grub farming for food.
- Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios were usually pulverized to thicken and spiced sauces.
- There are varieties of wine mixture in ancient Rome. Passum is a sweet wine made of raisin. Malsum is a combination of wine and honey. Conditum is mulsum with added spices and matured. An example is conditum paradoxum composed of wine, honey, laurel, dates, saffron, mastic, and pepper. For ancient Romans, beer was for the barbarians.
- Served with wine were desserts. With the absence of refined sugar to make sweet desserts, Romans typically ate fresh ripe fruits. Enkythoi was a Roman pastry similar to a sponge cake today.
- Like Asian cuisines today, Roman food often had a sour and a sweet taste. Coffee, tea, and orange juice were later introduced to Roman drinks, and the Arabs only introduced coffee in 1600. Meanwhile, tea drinking in Europe only came in the 17th century.
- As the Roman Empire expanded, their culinary habits also did. As their territory grew, their appetite was supplied with abundant resources.
- They learned their baking skills from the Egyptians and the Greeks.
- They had broad and sophisticated knowledge in agriculture, farming, and food preservation, which helped sustain their food supply.
Roman Food Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Roman Food across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching about Roman Food which over time evolved from its ancient Roman origins and was further altered by Rome’s expanding territory.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Roman Food Facts
- Geography Time!
- Roman Staple
- By Status
- Around a Table
- Three Meals in a Day
- Based on Ingredients
- Eat Like a Roman
- Based on Pictures
- My Roman Bread
- A Meal Plan
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Link will appear as Roman Food Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, March 24, 2022
Use With Any Curriculum
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