Ancient Roman Meals


The ancient Romans were similar to todays generations in their eating
habits but never ate three hearty meals a day. Ientaculum and prandium were
merely appetizers that filled their stomachs unitl the large cena, the event
they look forward to since awakening. They had names for their meals similar to
ours, breakfast (ientaculum), lunch (prandium), and dinner (cena).

Breakfast, ientaculum was usually taken about nine o\'clock and consisted
of merely a few pieces of bread sprinkled in salt or dipped in wine, and with a
few raisins and olives, and a little cheese added. The poorest Romans ate
little other than wheat either crushed to make a porridge or ground into flour
for bread.

Lunch, or prandium was usually taken at noon. It was usually nothing
more than a piece of bread accompanied by cold meat, vegetables, and fruit
washed down with a glass of wine. Both ientaculum and prandium were so short
there was no need to set the table or wash ones hands.

The only serious meal was the evening dinner or cena. Dinner time was
practically the same for all Romans due to the lack of artificial light. Dinner
was after the bath at the end of the eigth hour in winter and at the ninth in
summer. The food is mostly cold,-breads, salads, olives, cheeses, and meats
remaing from last nights dinner. Occasionally, hot dishes such as ham and pig\'s
heads are feasted upon. Some wealthy Romans would have as many as seven courses
to feed on.

Trimalchio, a wealthy Roman would have a bronzed donkey with appetizer
dishes of olives, stuffed dormice rolled in honey and poppy seed, hot sausages
were laid on a silver grill next to pomegranate and damson seeds. The guests
were still busy with the hors d\'oeuvres when a tray would be brought in with a
basket on it, in which there was a wooden hen spreading her wings. Under the
straw were Peahen eggs that would base passed out. Each egg contained a fat
becafico rolled up in spiced egg yolkf. There were plates with the twelve signs
of Zodiac on them that had food matas ching the symbol, ram, bull, crab, figs,
lion, etc. Some hosts would heat a wfshole pig and then entertain his guests by
having skilled swordmen carve the pa fig like he was killing it. After eating,
many guests would entertain each othed sfr in belching. It was considered
polite to belch and release wind after a ni sce meal. Guests would simply snap
their fingers and servants would come running with vases to contain urine.
Spitting was also allowed on the floors of the triclinium.

It is hard to imagine eating after a large dinner but dessert was next.
In rich homes, dessert would be served after a bath and then led into a second
dining room where wine flowed like water. Dessert consisted of every kind of
fruit imaginable. Poppy-seed mixed with honey is a standard dish for dessert

The majority of the common Romans baked bread in public bakeries. The
standard loaves are made very flat, about two inches thick, and marked with
notches on the top. There were three kinds of grains used to make bread.
Coarse grain (panis sordidus) for the common people. Panis secundus for the
higher class and the very white and sweet siligincus for the rich. At feasts
there will be wonderful pastry castles and sweet cakes truly amazing with the
use of honey, chopped fruits, and nuts.

Vegetables and fruits were plenitful in Rome. For many miles one could
see gardens that send artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, cucumber, lentils,
melons, onions, peas, and pumpkins into the city. Garlic is also very popular
in Roman dishes. Italy was an excellent fruit country and apples, pears, plums,
grapes, and quinces were common in the markets. A wide selection of nuts
including walnuts, filberts, and almonds were used in cooking and jsut plain
eating. Peaches, apricots, cherries, and pomegranates were found in Rome but
were not as abundant. Salad greens were in great demand in Rome.

The demand for meat in Rome was constantly increasing as the years went
by. Butcher shops became more popular which allowed poor people the opportunity
to get meat. The poor people would buy goat\'s flesh which was competely ignored
by finniky eaters. Beef was never really popular in Rome. Common people never
tasted beef unless it was presented at a sacrifice or great public festival.
Even for the rich, beef was no real treat. Pork was always popular. Pork in
all forms especially bacon and sausage was a treat to all