Italian cuisine is known for its pasta, gelato, and espresso. Dishes full of flavor—and calories. But two thousand years ago, ancient Romans didn’t have tomatoes or coffee, nor were they all that excited about meat. Fish, grains, and the occasional stuffed rodent, were the staple foods of the ordinary Roman kitchen. Only the privileged upper classes were able to indulge in more sumptuous fares.
A wealthy Roman named Marcus Gavius Apicius loved food. Actually, that is an understatement—he worshiped food. (Perhaps he was the one Paul was thinking when he wrote that some people's god was their stomach, Phil 3:19-20). That was certainly true of Apicius, who spent his vast fortune on creating extraordinary foods, and committed suicide when he feared he would starve to death because he didn’t have enough money left to buy food (a mere quarter of a million US dollars wasn’t enough for him).
Yet, from a culinary aspect Apicius was a genius. He created new recipes and operated a culinary school that promoted culinary ideas in an era that revered austerity. A compilation work of ancient Greek recipes combined with Roman novelties was dedicated to Apicius to promote sales. It is because of de re coquinaria that we have a window to a culinary world that no longer exists. Modern methods do not always work, making the recipes more of a historical curiosity than reliable recipes to be used in the modern everyday kitchen. Nevertheless, de re coquinaria, provides a fascinating glimpse into a world that gave us ours.
To view the entire collection, and for an informative article about culinary arts in the first-century Rome, visit
Excerpt from Marcus Gavius Apicius: De re coquinaria
· TO KEEP MEATS FRESH WITHOUT SALT FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME UT CARNES SINE SALE QUOVIS TEMPORE RECENTES SINT
COVER FRESH MEAT WITH HONEY, SUSPEND IT IN A VESSEL. USE AS NEEDED; IN WINTER IT WILL KEEP BUT IN SUMMER IT WILL LAST ONLY A FEW DAYS. COOKED MEAT MAY BE TREATED LIKEWISE.
· TO TEST SPOILED HONEY MEL CORRUPTUM UT PROBES
IMMERSE ELENCAMPANE IN HONEY AND LIGHT IT; IF GOOD, IT WILL BURN BRIGHTLY.
· TO KEEP POMEGRANATES UT MALA GRANATA DIU DURENT 
STEEP THEM INTO HOT [sea] WATER, TAKE THEM OUT IMMEDIATELY AND HANG THEM UP. [Tor.] THEY WILL KEEP.
· CUMIN SAUCE FOR SHELLFISH CUMINATUM IN OSTREA ET CONCHYLIA
[Tor. CUMIN SAUCE (SO CALLED BECAUSE CUMIN IS ITS CHIEF INGREDIENT) FOR OYSTERS AND CLAMS IS MADE OF] PEPPER, LOVAGE, PARSLEY, DRY MINT, MALABAR LEAVES, QUITE SOME CUMIN, HONEY, VINEGAR, AND BROTH.
· [BRAIN SAUSAGE] [ISICIA DE CEREBELLIS] 
PUT IN THE MORTAR PEPPER, LOVAGE AND ORIGANY, MOISTEN WITH BROTH AND RUB; ADD COOKED BRAINS AND MIX DILIGENTLY SO THAT THERE BE NO LUMPS. INCORPORATE FIVE EGGS AND CONTINUE MIXING WELL TO HAVE A GOOD FORCEMEAT WHICH YOU MAY THIN WITH BROTH. SPREAD THIS OUT IN A METAL PAN, COOK, AND WHEN COOKED [cold] UNMOULD IT ONTO A CLEAN TABLE. CUT INTO HANDY SIZE. [Now prepare a sauce] PUT IN THE MORTAR PEPPER, LOVAGE AND ORIGANY, CRUSH, MIX WITH BROTH PUT INTO A SAUCE PAN, BOIL, THICKEN AND STRAIN. HEAT THE PIECES OF BRAIN PUDDING IN THIS SAUCE THOROUGHLY, DISH THEM UP, SPRINKLED WITH PEPPER, IN A MUSHROOM DISH .
· [Rank of] DISHES ISICIA
[Entrées of] PEACOCK OCCUPY THE FIRST RANK, PROVIDED THEY BE DRESSED IN SUCH MANNER THAT THE HARD AND TOUGH PARTS BE TENDER. THE SECOND PLACE [in the estimation of the Gourmets] HAVE DISHES MADE OF RABBIT  THIRD SPINY LOBSTER  FOURTH COMES CHICKEN AND FIFTH YOUNG PIG.
Board of Directors, CCI
Board of Directors, CCI