The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery
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Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
(Number 30 in the Series, May 2005)
After a hiatus of just a few months over a decade, I'm on track to do a
major feast. This one is for the coronation of Darius III and Roxane of
the East Kingdom, scheduled for September of this year.
Naturally, I want to do Roman. So, I went straight to "A Taste of
Ancient Rome," which is, unfortunately a tertiary source. It is
Anna Herklotz' translation (from the Italian) of Ilaria Gozzini
Giacosa's translation (from the Latin) of Apicius' De re coquinaria.
I'll be doing my own redactions, of course, but it's still English by way of
Italian from Latin. On the other hand, the Latin is pretty straightforward
in most cases, so I'm willing to work with it.
The first thing I learned is that I'll be serving as archimagirus for
the feast - it's nice to have a good title.
The next step was to make a quick pass through the cookbook looking for
good recipes. I decided early on that I was looking at three courses:
gustum, mensa prima and mensa secunda. I also knew a couple of things
I wanted to do out the gate: savillum, a Roman style cheesecake, and
faux dormice as a sort of soteltie.
Further perusal turned up a number of interesting looking recipes.
- Patina de asparagis frigida - which looks like a sort of omelet with asparagus
and figpecker (although I'd probably use chicken), served cold.
- Aliter sala cattabia - which looks like a cheesy, bready, spready thing.
I'll want to try this out, but it might work as a gustum, maybe in
- Iecur coques - straight up liver pate.
- Pepones et melones - melon with a vinaigrettish sauce. This is probably
- Aliter assaturas - an herb selection for roast meat. The previous entry
(Assaturam) was pretty straightforward - roast meat with salt and serve
with honey, so I've got some options for meaty bits.
- Vitulinam sive bubulam ... - the book calls this a stew, I'm not competely
convinced, but it looks like it could be good.
- Pernam, (etc.) - a ham in pastry dish.
- Haedus sive agnus crudus - a simple way to do lamb or kid with coriander.
Looks promising, if lamb is in the budget.
- Pullum Frontonianum - Chicken Fronto. A pretty simple chicken dish with
a coating of defrutum, reduced must.
- Aliter avem - another way to do birds, this time with olives.
- Ius album in assum leporem - rabbit with stuff. Might be a nice value
added for head table.
- Ius in pisce elixo - a sealed dish whole fish. Presents some practical
difficulties but might work.
- Betas elixas - beets or beet greens with a mustard sauce.
- Cucumeres rasos - sliced cucumbers with light dressing.
- Porros maturos fieri - boiled leeks. Mmm. I like leeks.
- Faseoli virides et cicer - green beans and chick peas.
- Tiropatinam - a custard thing, sweetened with honey
- Ova sfongia ex lacte - egg sponge with milk. Kind of a sweet omelet or
frittata, could present some technical difficulties if I have to roll
it out for 160 people. But not out of the running.
- Patina de piris - Pear patina, again a kind of omelety thing.
- Savillum - a kind of cheesecake
- Lucanicae, Farcimina - sausages. Probably used mostly to make my faux
So, there you have it! Plenty of good recipes. Now it's just a question of
trimming them down to a reasonable number and getting them in order for a
One practical consideration, of course, is figuring out which dishes can
be pre-cooked and which can or should be served cold. That'll be where I
start next time.
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Comments are welcome.
Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné, Jeff Berry, email@example.com
Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 12 May 2005
Last modified 12 May 2005