The Roman News: Food Pages – text only version
Illustrated by RICHARD HOOK
LET THE ROMAN NEWS show you how it’s done! Follow our ten-step guide to giving the best dinner party ever.
1 STAR GUEST
Everyone wants to meet famous people, so invite someone important—a senator or a general. Then all the other leading citizens will want to come to the party, too.
2 GUESSING GAME
Don’t ask anyone else until the day before your dinner party. This will make people even more anxious to attend! And make all of your guests feel really special by sending your slaves to invite each one of them individually.
3 SWEET SMELLS
Fill your home with the scent of flowers of perfumed oils, so your guests fell relaxed. When the guests are seated, have your slaves bathe their hands and feet in perfumed water.
4 SITTING COMFORTABLY
Give your guests plenty of room— never try to squash more than three people onto each couch. And don’t place and more than three couches around a table.
5 IN THE MOOD
Music is another good way to put your guests at ease. Make sure you hire professional musicians, though, and ask them to keep to music soft and slow so that it doesn’t drown out the conversation. Flutes and harps are ideal.
6 WISE WINES
You’ll probably be offering a choice of wines—spiced, warm, iced, or ... <continues on p. 29>
<Image of feast with guests reclining on couches set around low tables set with dishes, with a slave pouring wine and musicians dancing.>
... sweetened with honey. But don’t spoil the fun by letting people drink too much too soon—mix the wine with water!
7 ONLY THE BEST
You can offer anywhere from three to ten courses, but the more dishes the better. Include the usual starters (olives, salads, oysters), but also add something special, such as peahens’ eggs. Follow this up with a selection of fish and meat dishes—stuffed dormice are always popular. And remind your cook to prepare an impressive range of mouth-watering sauces. Finish off your feast with nuts, fruit, and of course, honey cakes.
<Image top centre of page showing a roasted whole pig on a platter surrounded by other dishes.>
Make sure you serve your most exotic dish in the middle of the meal. We suggest a flamingo or peacock, a wild boar, or a large tasty fish such as sturgeon. Serve the animal in one piece, stuffed with other treats.
9 SICK CARE
There will always be someone who wants more, even when he’s full to bursting. Set aside one room as a vomitorium so that your guests can be sick quickly and quietly, and then come back to the table to start again.
10 FLOOR SHOW
Hire jugglers, acrobats, magicians, or exotic dancers for your guests’ entertainment during and after the meal. But we do advise against gladiator fights—we find that blood makes such a terrible mess of your room!
<Banner image under text showing pomegranate, mushrooms, rosemary, a fig, grapes, walnuts, a fish and a peach>
FREE FOR ALL
EACH EMPEROR BELIEVES that handing out food to the citizens of Rome will make him popular. The Roman News talked to a man on the street, to find out what people really think about the emperors’ gifts.
WELL I DON’T know about making emperors popular, but it certainly keeps them from getting a knife in the back!
I mean, it’s all right for rich folk—they can afford to buy anything they want. Many of them have country farms and grow most of their food, anyway.
But the rest of us! There are so many people living in Rome these days that farmers just can’t grow enough to feed us all.
Half the time you can’t even find basic foods like bread and beans or vegetables and fruit in the stores here, let alone things like fish and meat. And then meat’s so expensive! I can’t afford it often on my wages, I can tell you.
KEEPING THE PEOPLE SWEET
Let’s face it, my family would go hungry if it weren’t for the emperor’s monthly handouts. We get grain for making bread, as well as olive oil and wine, you know. And they’re even giving us pork now.
All this free food is probably costing the emperor a fortune, but there would be riots if he tried to stop it!
And anyway, it’s a tradition. Well, it’s been going on for hundreds of years, hasn’t it—since at least 58 B.C.
I say, long live the emperor—well, as long as he carries on lending a helping hand to my family and friends, that is!
<Text box recipe in right column>
WHAT A DISH!
AMAZE YOUR dinner guests with these fine dishes from the cookbook of that famous lover of food, Apicius.
- Make sure the ostrich is properly plucked and cut into large pieces.
- Put the pieces into large pots, cover with water, and simmer.
- Make a sauce from pepper, celery seeds, dates, honey, vinegar, mint, fish sauce, and oil.
- Bring to a boil and thicken with corn flour.
- Arrange the ostrich so that it looks like a whole bird and cover with the hot sauce.
- You will need to prepare your snails a few weeks in advance.
- Choose only snails that are good to eat. You’ll need about ten for each person. Clean the shells thoroughly.
- Let the snails live in a pan of milk until they are fat and juicy.
- Fry them in oil and serve hot.