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At the table with Plinio

Villa Graziani and Museo archeologico della Villa di Plinio il Giovane

Thanks to De re coquinaria o L’arte culinaria by Apicio (1st century AD), today we know how the ancient Romans ate. Dinner was considered the most important meal, already starting in the early hours of the afternoon: it started with the antipasto and was followed by at least three courses and a dessert. A typical characteristic of Ancient Roman cooking was the combination of contrasting flavours. The Roman cooks used to camouflage the food that each time was supposed to amaze and fool the diners: as Apicio writes, trying to guess what a particular dish consisted of, was a way to brighten the dinners.

For the wealthier classes, to which Plinio il Giovane partook, dinner became a real convivum and the guests could recline on the triclinium: the three seater sofas, positioned around the table.

Amongst the preferred dishes, the ancient Romans loved sauces and were great enthusiasts of wine, which they consumed diluted with honey and spices, used in the form of must in many dishes and as a sweetener.

At all the tables, from the humbler to the aristocratic ones, the main plate was Puls, a polenta made with spelt flour cooked in water and salt and to which you could add broad beans or other types of pulses, cruciferous vegetables, onions, cheese. Puls was the main source of nutrition since bread was still not used before the 2nd century BC.