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Feasting Roman Style

Roberto Bompiani's "A Roman Feast"
 
Emiliano Mochi / Storyteller

Roberto Bompiani's "A Roman Feast"

At a Roman feast, lavish foods like roasted peacock and ostriches were essential components of the cuisine of the upper class.

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Eating habits in Ancient Rome were significantly different from the eating habits of current Romans. These differences can be attributed to differences in lifestyle and daily routine. In Ancient Rome, it was common for the master to take his first meal, jentaculum, in his bedroom. This meal was often served with wine and would consist of a slice of bread or wheat pancakes. Lunch, which was referred to as prandium, was a light meal consisting of bread, cheese, and occasionally meat. This meal was served around eleven a.m. The focus of the day was on the main meal, cena. Cena was eaten in the late afternoon or early evening. When guests were present, this meal could last up to four hours, however in the absence of guests it usually lasted about one hour. About an hour before bed, Romans would typically consume a light supper, consisting of bread and fruit. Most food was prepared by being either boiled or fried and for this reason, very few homes had ovens.

Cena was the main meal of the day, typically eaten in the late afternoon or early evening.

Sauces were an important part of meals. Garum, which was made by combining fish waste with salt water and leaving it out for several weeks, was a popular sauce in Ancient Rome. Sauces were also made from ingredients including vinegar, honey, pepper, herbs, and spices. These sauces added some excitement to the typical dishes. Sweet drinks were also popular. Mulsum was one of the most popular and it consisted of boiled wine and honey.

In general, Roman meals rarely consisted of meat. They typically ate vegetables, herbs. and spices with a wheat meal. During a banquet, however, exotic foods were served whenever possible. A “doggy bag” was a clear indication that a banquet was successful. If the guests requested to take home leftovers, the master was sure they had enjoyed the feast.

About the Author


Emiliano Mochi is an Italian storyteller born in Bracciano (Rome) in 1981. He has been in the tourism business since 2004, Emiliano is a licensed Rome Tour Guide with a passion for ancient mythology and Latin texts. He is an ultimate frisbee player and a keen AS Roma supporter.

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