Chapter 6 How they ate.
Focus At the end of this presentation, you should be able to identify the Roman dining customs as well as the Latin names for the meals eaten by ancient Romans.
For Starters The Romans were fairly social and dinner was a chance to catch up with friends and the local politics. They did not have a newspaper, much less radio, television or the internet to keep them up to date. Thus, for the wealthy a dinner party was the perfect opportunity to both discuss and display your social status. However, the Romans still ate 3 meals a day and so we will start with those meals that seemed to have been all business...in the sense that they were just about eating to keep the body going and nothing else.
Quick Bites • Ientaculum: Breakfast was a quick bite to get you going. It would have been a light snack of bread maybe with cheese or olives and wine or sometimes milk to drink. • Prandium: Lunch was a quick meal to keep you going. It would have been cold meats (if you could afford it), vegetables and fruit. This cold lunch might have been leftovers from last night’s dinner. The other choice for lunch was hot food from a thermopolium which was the ancient Roman “fast food” restaurant.
Evening Meals • Vesperinum: Supper or more specifically the same as above but it was eaten in the evening instead of at midday. This meal was only if the heavier “dinner” was eaten at midday and was likely earlier in Roman history. • Cenaor dinner was the big deal. Just like today, the meal ranged greatly depending on a person’s wealth and whether or not guests were invited. Since the Roman dinner party is the stuff of legends, here the most expensive and elaborate dinner party will be illustrated.
ab ovo usque ad mala But a formal dinner party would have been a 3 course meal. The courses would consisted of an appetizer, an entree and dessert. Hence the title of this slide...from the egg to the apples.
Gustatio • Gustatio or the appetizer round was not really thought of as an actual course. Possible and popular foods to be consumed during the gustatio included eggs (ovum) lettuce, vegetables and/or shellfish or some other seafood perhaps served in a sauce. Mulsum or wine sweetened with honey was the drink of choice.
Lie Down to Dinner So what was dinner like? It was an elaborate affair. First the seating arrangement was quite elaborate and let all there know how high your social status was. Wealthy Roman men reclined on couches while propped on their left elbow while eating. Most Romans couldn’t have afforded a fancy dinner party, it was far more common for the average person to eat a simple meal at home with their family at a table in chairs.
Place Cards Each of the 3 couches could hold up to 3 guests. Each couch and each position on the couch was designated as imus, medius or summus. Thus if you were in the highest position on the highest couch you were said to be summus in sumo. The highest position on the first couch was reserved for the host and the lowest position of the middle couch for the guest of honor. This position was also called the locus consularis. ***See the seating chart that is in the separate document.***
Cena: A sight to behold The food served would have been a spectacle as well as delicious. The best cooks presented the food as another type of food. For instance pig for chicken or peacock for duck. The Romans ate very little beef, since cows were used to work in the fields.
Cena: Main Course They enjoyed a variety of birds such as chicken, duck, ostrich, crane, flamingo and peacock. Dormice were such a delicacy that they were raised and fattened. Naturally they also ate fish. Popular vegetables included artichokes, carrots, onions, peas, asparagus, radishes, turnips plus beans and lentils.
After the Main Course After this course there would be pause to honor by praying and making an offer to the household gods. The Romans mostly ate with their fingers so they frequently washed their hands and they washed their feet beforehand.
Secunda Mensa • Secunda Mensa (second table) was the dessert course. Typically fruit (apples, pears, figs) sometimes with nuts or cakes made with honey were served.
When it was all over.. There might also be entertainment at the dinner such as poets, actors, dancers, musicians or jugglers.
Last Morsels The food was cut into bite sized pieces since no forks or knives were used at the table. Spoons were only used for certain dished. Most dished were made from earthenware or clay pottery. Honey was used for a sweetener. The Romans also used a variety of sauces on their meat, the most common being garum, which was made from aged fish.
What not to eat Lastly there are several foods the ancient Romans did not eat, most notably tomatoes and pasta. The also did not have potatoes, corn, oranges, bananas, strawberries, coffee, tea or chocolate.
Assignment What are your family's dining habits? How are your family’s habits related to the Romans’ dining habits? Some questions to think about for your original post: Do you usually eat in the kitchen, dining room or living room? Do you usually eat at a restaurant or get take out or otherwise eat "on the run"? Do the members of your family usually dine all at the same time or each member whenever they can? Do you frequently have guests for dinner? Your response post should explain how your habits are related to your classmates’ habits.Please remember to use proper English, including spelling, grammar and punctuation. You must both post and respond to a classmate for full credit.