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Roman Food inspired by CPK's post.


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By coincidence, or Serendipitous Synchronicity as I call it, I thought I would share my Roman culinary experience of todays date after reading @CPK's post and the comments that followed.

In the past I have fermented Garum , and I was able to use some today. I can recall an erudite post on Garum elsewhere.  I  bought this book some time ago.


My wife isn't fussed on Garum as she reckons it's a quick way to the Emergency Room and none of my family would consider Dormice however fat they were , so my Roman cooking tends to be fairly pedestrian.

I live as far West as you can in the UK and you couldn't really say that the local food stores cater for sophisticated palettes as there is no demand , basically because of demographics. This does create some interesting opportunities as a large chain often stocks items they cannot sell. This is usually sold cheaply and this week I picked up a couple of Guinea Fowl for the equivalent of $3.00 each.

I found a recipe called guinea fowl in the style of Vardanus, this was translated from Apicus .6.8.11. It's pretty simple, you cut the bird into chunks, add a couple of table spoons of what I call fish sauce ( it saves arguments and refusal to eat) half a bottle of cheap sweet wine and some olive oil and then place on top some Tyhme wrapped in a leek. (Leeks are a national food in Wales).

You then simmer for about one and a half hours , pull the meat from the bones and serve with a sauce made from crushed pine kernels and the liquor from the cooking.  Here is the prepped casserole pot before I added the wine, Garum and Olive oil.




I don't normally photograph food but today two of our daughters  were eating Sunday lunch in a fancy restaurant and asked us what we were eating on WhatsApp and sent us an image of their meal to impress us.

This was  their lunch , pretty traditional roast beef.


My comments about the Roman recipe are that it was simple to make, preparation time was literally 15 minutes, and then another five minutes to grind the pine seeds in a pestle and mortar. You could a blender and also use Chicken as a substitute with Vietnamese Fish sauce instead of Garum. The most expensive part of the meal was not the meat or the wine but the pine kernels. 

Many will know this but for those that don't, Marcus Gavius Apicius ( AD 14-37) was famous for two things, sailing around the Mediterranean looking for the largest prawns , and for dying in style by poisoning his last banquet; he was certainly no cook!

I've raised this post, although it is a bit off topic because food is featured on so many coins as it was politicised, weaponised and of course to some segments of society a massive display of social status.

Bring on your Roman recipes , ingredients and experiences....







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There is modern, commercially-produced garum, though it's definitely a specialty product (i.e. not likely to be found in your local grocery store).  Here's one source I found online (note: I haven't tried it so can't say how good it is):


If you want something less "artisanal" (read: expensive), the fish sauces used in Southeast Asian cooking are fairly similar, and you can get a big bottle cheap. 

I once found in an online translation of Apicius a recipe for "Parthian chicken", so of course I had to try it.  It basically involved slow-cooking the chicken in pomegranate juice (pomegranates were associated with Parthia).  It came out fairly tasty, though I haven't made it in a while so can't really be more specific.  

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19 hours ago, CPK said:

Interesting post! 👍

I've always been curious to try garum. I reckon that Worcestershire sauce is probably about the closest modern equivalent.

nuoc mam, which is fermented vietnamese fish sauce would be similar i think

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Yes @Cordoba Vietnamese Fish Sauce is very similar but contains 75% salt compared to the Roman sauce. Some time ago I bought a bottle of   Hungh Thanh Vietnamese Fish Sauce (35oN) from Amazon. When it turned up it was 12 months past its sell by date but sell by dates have never bothered me as I consider them marketing tools only. When I was growing up sell by dates were your nose and common sense.   I can recommend it but prefer my Garum as I am connected by my labour in making it.

What can be lost in the discussion is that the fish sauce is diluted when you add it in the right proportion to a dish and it can add to the flavour. Lamb is a classic meat enhanced by Anchovies. 

Worcester sauce is a close comparison @CPK and used over here in casseroles and soups as an enhancer but I doubt if many would appreciate it contains anchovies.

I can recall a "follow me" thread recently that featured coins with Silphium that apparently was harvested to extinction because of its popularity as a flavouring and use for medicinal and perfume. As the last stalk was apparently gifted to Nero, Silphium is something we will never taste but its existence has been perpetuated by coinage as well as the written word.

This is the sauce available on Amazon.


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5 hours ago, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

I ordered the cookbook.  How hard is it to make garum?  Is it that much different from the modern Asian ready-made fish sauces?

Not that difficult at all as long as you don't mind mashing fish and being prepared to filter it a few times. Given the amount of shelf life it should have, you would not be doing it often. My interest was purely for self enjoyment and in a litigation mad world I probably wouldn't publish a recipe. With sterile jars and the amount of salt used I reckon it is relatively low risk. There are plenty of recipes including the one @Nerosmyfavorite68 posted.

I have never cooked Parthian Chicken so that is now on my list and there is a recipe for it in the book I posted.

The great thing about coin collecting is that it is so multi-dimensional because it can lead to so many interesting subjects like following endless rabbit holes , the list is only limited by ones imagination. 

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Just bread, olive oil, and wine for me. An Italian place I used to go to in Palo Alto served hot bread with rustic olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dip instead of butter as an appetizer before the Insalata Mista. Not bad. Roman, I hope. I think that The Satyricon by Petronius contains an account called Trimalchio's Dinner which describes the oddball dishes served to the wealthy at a banquet. I suppose someone could come up with cookbook of these "delicacies". 

Edited by Ancient Coin Hunter
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 6/26/2023 at 11:21 AM, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

I ordered the cookbook.  How hard is it to make garum?  Is it that much different from the modern Asian ready-made fish sauces?

 It's not that it's hard to make garum; It's just hard to stay friendly with your neighbors if you do!

You can buy it on Amazon.

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