Ancient Greco-Roman Cuisine Still Eaten to This Day – Part I
As all Italians will tell you, the roots of Italy lay in Ancient Greece and Rome. Now Greco-Roman.
The types of food, the variety of food, the ways they are consumed and more were all subject to change depending on a number of factors. The abundance of certain staple foods, the availability of delicacies, all depended on your class, the year it was, the current relations of international trade and a series of variables.
There were many foods that were eaten in the Roman Republic that remain a staple of Italian Cuisine. Throughout the history, grains were eaten commonly among all classes, with bread being the main. But pasta was eaten too. Because of Rome trading with so much of the world they had an unprecedented access to fruits and vegetables of all kinds from all corners of the country, subsequently then the kingdom, the republic, and eventually the empire. These fruits included apples, pears, figs, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, pomegranates, cherries and apricots were commonly eaten. Though modern supermarkets would have these things all the time, the Romans ate them fresh in season or dried them to save for winter.
To the Romans, alcohol was an essential part of their life. Wine was common, and was also commonly prepped using different seasoning for taste. Beer was actually not drank, and seen as brutish. The lower classes during the early era of Rome commonly made stews, and used what they could for nutrition. The stew would likely be different every day, but it was not uncommon to keep it boiling and saving some from the previous day for flavor. Seasoning was a luxury that only the wealthy had access too. The fruits previously mentioned, and the vegetables they ate that we eat today, would have been a luxury early on. But the closer we move to the Republic and the Empire the more these items previously considered luxury were eaten by all classes and social groups.
Bizarrely the Ancient Greeks actually made a dish very similar to pancakes, only they actually used honey on them. Grains were common, but used more so to make into flour and bread. In Greek and Rome, in a tradition that continues today, seasoning is very common and many dishes to achieve unique flavors. Eggs and dairy were commonly consumed, but that is a dish that was consumed in many places. Alcohol served a large place in Greek society, just like Rome. But ultimately, Roman diet and cuisine had more of an influence on modern Italian cuisine, mainly because of the sheer size, span and influence that they wielded.
There were also foods that were eaten then that are no longer eaten, entirely extinct, or so radically different as to almost be a different food. Carrots were eaten, but had a different taste and had many different colors, but none of those colors were orange. In Part 2 we will be going over some of the differences between modern Italian’s diet and the ancient world.