A table showing some of he common foods Romans ate
The Romans ate food that they could grow such as vegetables.
They used cereals they grew to make bread.
They also ate meat from animals and birds.
The Romans brought food over from other countries in their empire (imported food). Many of these food were new to Britain and had therefore never been tasted before by people living in Britain. These 'new' foods included many vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, cabbages, radishes, broad beans and celery.
The Romans were also very fond of fish sauce called liquamen (also known as Garum).
Typically, the Romans ate three meals a day.
Breakfast - ientaculum
The Romans ate a breakfast of bread or a wheat pancake eaten with dates and honey.
Lunch - prandium
At midday they ate a light meal of fish, cold meat, bread and vegetables. Often the meal consisted of the leftovers of the previous day's cena.
Dinner - cena - The main meal
What was eaten for dinner varied among classes. The poor might only eat a simple meal of vegetables and porridge, whereas the rich could enjoy such luxuries as several course meals and exotic food and wine.
Wheat was boiled to make the tasteless porridge. To add flavour to the porridge they often added flavourings and relishes as well as vegetables, herbs and a little meat.
Rich Romans held elaborate dinner parties in the triclinium (dining room). These parties often lasted up to eight hours. The Romans did not sit on chairs around the table like we do today. Instead the adults lay on sloping couches situated around a square table. Only small children or slaves were permitted to eat sitting.
The Romans ate mainly with their fingers and so the food was cut into bite size pieces. Slaves would continually wash the guests' hands throughout the dinner.
Spoons were used for soup.
Rich Romans could afford to eat lots of meat.
"Meat dishes included boar (wild pig), venison (deer), wild goat, mutton, lamb, kid, sucking pig, hare and dormice. Poultry dishes were of almost every known bird: chicken, geese, ostriches, cranes, pheasants, pigeons, doves, thrushes, fig-peckers, and- for the rich- peacocks" (Cowell, 1961: 78).
Roman writer Petronius wrote about his eating experiences in around AD 60:
|"After a generous rubdown with oil, we put on dinner clothes. We were taken into the next room where we found three couches drawn up and a table, very luxuriously laid out, awaiting us.
We were invited to take our seats. Immediately, Egyptian slaves came in and poured ice water over our hands. The starters were served. On a large tray stood a donkey made of bronze. On its back were two baskets, one holding green olives, and the other black. On either side were dormice, dipped in honey and rolled in poppy seed. nearby, on a silver grill, piping hot, lay small sausages. As for wine, we were fairly swimming in it."
Wine and water was served in jugs.