Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome
by Apicius
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcriber's Note

The original text used a Prescription Take symbol (upper case R with a line through the leg) to indicate recipe numbers. It is shown as {Rx} in this version of the etext.

Some letters have a macron (straight line) above them; these are indicated as {=x}, with x being the particular letter.

The book uses both upper and lower case oe ligatures. These are shown as {OE} and {oe} respectively.

The many inconsistencies in hyphenation and use of accents and ligatures have been preserved as printed, with a few exceptions. Variable and archaic spelling has also been preserved. A full list of amendments and other notes follow the end of the book.

A considerable number of the recipe and page numbers in the index are incorrect; however, they have been preserved as printed.



A Bibliography, Critical Review and Translation of the Ancient Book known as Apicius de re Coquinaria



With a Dictionary of Technical Terms, Many Notes, Facsimiles of Originals, and Views and Sketches of Ancient Culinary Objects Made by the Author

INTRODUCTION BY PROF. FREDERICK STARR Formerly of the University of Chicago










Mary Barber, Battle Creek, Mich. Morton S. Brookes, Chicago, Ill. Caxton Club, Chicago, Ill. Gaylord Donnelley, Chicago, Ill. F. H. Douthitt, Chicago, Ill. Helen E. Gilson, Philadelphia, Pa. John Herrmann, Chicago, Ill. W. T. H. Howe, Cincinnati, O. Dr. Samuel W. Lambert, New York, N. Y. Tom L. Powell, Houston, Texas Arnold Shircliffe, Chicago, Ill. W. A. Stewart, Chicago, Ill. Ernest Sturm, New York, N. Y. Jake Zeitlin, Los Angeles, Cal.


American Institute of Baking, Chicago, Ill. E. E. Amiet, Chicago, Ill. Argus Book Shop, Chicago, Ill. Kimball C. Atwood, Jr., New York, N. Y. Baker & Taylor Co., New York, N. Y. Edith M. Barber, New York, N. Y. Mary Barber, Battle Creek, Mich. Ann Batchelder, New York, N. Y. J. C. Bay, Chicago, Ill. William G. Bell Co., Boston, Mass. Albert R. Bennett, Chicago, Ill. A. W. Bitting, San Francisco, Cal. Edward W. Bodman, Pasadena, Cal. Prof. Dr. Edward Brandt, Munich, Germany Donald C. Brock, Chicago, Ill. Morton S. Brookes, Chicago, Ill. John M. Cameron, Chicago, Ill. Vernon G. Cardy, Montreal, Canada The Marchese Agostino Cavalcabo, Cremona, Italy C. D. Champlin, Rheims, N. Y. George M. Chandler, Chicago, Ill. City of St. Paul, Minn. Dept. of Education Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, O. Lenna F. Cooper, New York, N. Y. W. A. Cooper, Montreal, Canada Cornell University, Martha Van Renn. Hall, Ithaca, N. Y. Cornell University Library, Ithaca, N. Y. John Crerar Library, Chicago, Ill. Franklin M. Crosby, Jr., Minneapolis, Minn. Dr. Harvey Cushing, New Haven, Conn. J. O. Dahl, New York, N. Y. Davis & Orioli, London, England E. F. Detterer, Chicago, Ill. George Dommers, Clinton, Conn. F. H. Douthitt, Chicago, Ill. James F. Drake, New York, N. Y. John Drury, Chicago, Ill. Ellen Ann Dunham, New York, N. Y. Eugene C. Eppley, Omaha, Neb. George Fabyan, Geneva, Ill. Rose Fallenstein, St. Louis, Mo. Dr. Wm. T. Fenker, Sandusky, O. Katharine Fisher, New York, N. Y. T. Henry Foster, Ottumwa, Iowa Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa. Donald McKay Frost, Boston, Mass. Louise B. Fuchs, Put in Bay, O. Mariano Gamero, Chicago, Ill. E. P. Goldschmidt, London, England Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, Mich. Grosvenor Library, Buffalo, N. Y. Alfred E. Hamill, Chicago, Ill. Gladys Hamilton, Detroit, Mich. Dr. Fred W. Hark, Chicago, Ill. Herald Tribune, New York, N. Y. James Jerome Hill Reference Library, St. Paul, Minn. Walter M. Hill, Chicago, Ill. Mrs. Julia P. Hindley, Oakland, Cal. John L. Horgan, New York, N. Y. Horwath & Horwath, Chicago, Ill. Hospitality Guild, Stamford, Conn. Hotel Robidoux, St. Joseph, Mo. W. T. H. Howe, Cincinnati, O. Henry E. Huntington Library & Art Gallery, San Marino, Cal. Hurlbut Paper Co., South Lee, Mass. Dr. Julius Kahn, Chicago, Ill. Kroch's Bookstores, Inc., Chicago, Ill. Dr. Samuel W. Lambert, New York, N. Y. Miss E. N. Latzke, Armour & Co., Chicago, Ill. Maggs Bros., London, England Abby L. Marlatt, (U. of Wisconsin), Madison, Wis. Massachusetts State College, Amherst, Mass. R. B. May, Chicago, Ill. Howard B. Meek, Ph.D., Ithaca, N. Y. A. Merritt, American Weekly, New York, N. Y. Leopold Metzenberg, Chicago, Ill. Michigan State College, East Lansing, Mich. Emma L. Miles, Cedar Rapids, Iowa Edward F. Misak, Cedar Rapids, Iowa Mrs. Laurence Montgomery, Gerrard's Cross, England H. K. Morse, Chicago, Ill. Mrs. A. P. Munsen, Marion, Pa. Jannie McCrery, Lubbock, Texas O. O. McIntyre, New York, N. Y. Elizabeth J. McKittrick (U. of Wyoming), Laramie, Wyo. P. Mabel Nelson, Ames, Iowa New York Public Library, New York, N. Y. Hans Nickel, Cedar Rapids, Iowa Northwestern University Library, Evanston, Ill. Dr. Kurt W. Ossendorff, Chicago, Ill. Louis Pelzmann, Chicago, Ill. Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia, Pa. Peoria Public Library, Peoria, Ill. Imogene Powell, Chicago, Ill. Pratt Institute Free Library, Brooklyn, N. Y. Mrs. A. W. Proetz, St. Louis, Mo. Public Library, Detroit, Mich. Public Library of Fort Wayne & Allen County, Fort Wayne, Ind. Putnam Bookstore, New York, N. Y. Charles Retz, New York, N. Y. Dr. Georg Roemmert, New York, N. Y. Everett E. Rogerson, Chicago, Ill. Otto Sattler, New York, N. Y. Walter W. Schmauch, Chicago, Ill. Louis Sherwin, New York, N. Y. Jay G. Sigmund, Cedar Rapids, Iowa Andre L. Simon, London Ray Smith, Milwaukee, Wis. Albert V. Smolka, Vienna, Austria State University of Iowa Library, Iowa City, Iowa Renee B. Stern, Philadelphia Record, Philadelphia, Pa. B. F. Stevens & Brown, London, England W. A. Stewart, Chicago, Ill. Dr. Allen Edgar Stewart, Chicago, Ill. Colton Storm, New York, N. Y. Arthur Swann, New York, N. Y. Marion G. Taft, P.T., Chicago, Ill. Dr. Helen H. Tanzer, New York, N. Y. The Tavern, Chicago, Ill. E. Jackson Taylor, Coatesville, Pa. Max L. Teich, St. Louis, Mo. Dr. Henry Bascom Thomas, Chicago, Ill. Nathaniel S. Thomas, Palm Beach, Fla. C. H. Thordarson, Chicago, Ill. Toledo Public Library, Toledo, O. Edith Tranter, Cincinnati, O. Albert B. Tucker, Chicago, Ill. University of Illinois Library, Urbana, Ill. University of Illinois, College of Medicine, Chicago, Ill. University of Maryland Library, College Park, Md. University of Nebraska Library, Omaha, Neb. University of Notre Dame Library, South Bend, Ind. University of Texas Library, Austin, Texas U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, Library, Washington, D.C. Harold Van Orman, Evansville, Ind. T. Louise Viehoff, Chicago, Ill. Annemarie L. Vietzke, Chicago, Ill. George Wahr, Ann Arbor, Mich. The Waldorf-Astoria, New York, N. Y. Dr. Margaret B. Wilson, Washington, D.C. John William Wohlers, Port Clinton, O. Yale Co-Operative Corp., New Haven, Conn. Jake Zeitlin, Los Angeles, Cal. Charles Zuellig, Milwaukee, Wis.









THE BOOK OF APICIUS A critical review of its times, its authors, and their sources, its authenticity and practical usefulness in modern times 1

THE RECIPES OF APICIUS AND THE EXCERPTS FROM APICIUS BY VINIDARIUS Original translation from the most reliable Latin texts, elucidated with notes and comments 41

APICIANA A bibliography of Apician manuscript books and printed editions 251




Made from originals and reproductions in the author's collection

PAGE 1 BREVIS PIMENTORUM, Excerpts of Vinidarius, 8th Century 234 2 INCIPIT CONDITUM PARADOXUM, Vatican MS, 9th Century 253 3 COLOPHON, Signerre Edition, Milan, 1498 260 4 TITLE PAGE, Tacuinus Edition, Venice, 1503 262 5 OPENING CHAPTER, same 232 6 TITLE PAGE, Schola Apitiana, Antwerp, 1535 206 7 TITLE PAGE, Torinus Edition, Basel, 1541 220 8 TITLE PAGE, Torinus Edition, Lyons, 1541 263 9 TITLE PAGE, Humelbergius Edition, Zuerich, 1542 265 10 TITLE PAGE, Lister Edition, London, 1705 267 11 VERSO of Title Page, Lister Edition, London, 1705 268 12 TITLE PAGE, Lister Edition, Amsterdam, 1709 250 13 FRONTISPICE, Lister Edition, Amsterdam, 1709 156 14 BANQUET SCENE, from an ancient vase (opposite)


Sketched from scenes and objects at Pompeii, Naples, Berlin and Chicago. Most of the ancient objects are in the National Museum of Naples with many replicas in the Field Museum, Chicago. The treasure found in 1868 near Hildesheim is in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin


15 APICII LIBRI X, Latin title of present edition, hand-lettered (facing title)

16 DIAGRAM of Apicius manuscripts and printed editions 252

17 GREAT CRATER, Hildesheim Treasure 140

18 THERMOSPODIUM, plain, Naples 90

19 THERMOSPODIUM, elaborate, Naples 72

20 DESSERT or Fruit Dish, Shell, Naples 125

21 DESSERT or Fruit Bowl, fluted 61

22 TABLE, square, adjustable, Naples 138

23 TABLE, round, Naples 122

24 PAN, Frying, round, Naples 155

25 PAN, Frying, oval, Naples 159

26 PAN, Service Saucepan, with decorated handle, Hildesheim 73

27 SERVICE DISH, oval, with two handles, Hildesheim Treasure 43

28 PAN, Saucepan, with handle, Hercules motif, Naples 222

29 PLATTER for Roast, Hildesheim Treasure 219

30 PLATTER, The Great Pallas Athene Dish, Hildesheim 158

31 TRIPOD for Crater, Hildesheim Treasure 40

32 EGG SERVICE DISH, Hildesheim Treasure 93

33 WINE DIPPER, Naples 3

34 DIONYSOS CUP, Hildesheim Treasure 141

35 CANTHARUS, Theatrical Decoration, Hildesheim Treasure 231

36 CANTHARUS, Bacchic Decoration, Hildesheim Treasure 274

37 COLANDER, Naples 58

38 WINE PITCHER, Diana handle, Naples 208

39 WINE PRESS, Reconstruction in Naples 92

40 GONG for Slaves, Naples 42

41 WINE STOCK ROOM, Pompeii 124

42 CASA DI FORNO, Pompeii 2

43 SLAVES operating hand mill, reconstruction in Naples 60

44 STEW POT, No. 1, Caccabus, Naples 183

45 STEW POT, No. 2, Caccabus, Naples 209

46 STEW POT, No. 3, Caccabus, Naples 223

47 STEW POT, No. 4, Caccabus, Naples 235

48 CRATICULA, combination broiler and stove, Naples 182

49 "LIBRO COMPLETO" (End of Book)



The original ancient text as presented and rendered in the present translation is printed in capital letters.

Matter in parenthesis () is original. Matter in square brackets [] is contributed by the translator.

In most of the early originals the headings or titles of the formulae are invariably part of the text. In the present translation they are given both in English and in the Latin used by those originals which the translator considered most characteristic titles.

They have been set in prominent type as titles over each formula, whereas in the originals the formulae of the various chapters run together, in many instances without distinct separation.


A system of numbering the recipes has therefore been adopted by the translator, following the example of Schuch, which does not exist in the other originals but the numbers in the present translation do not correspond to those adopted by Schuch for reasons which hereafter become evident.


The notes, comments and variants added to each recipe by the translator are printed in upper and lower case and in the same type as the other contributions by the translator, the Apiciana, the Critical Review and the Vocabulary and Index.

For the sake of convenience, to facilitate the study of each recipe and for quick reference the notes follow in each and every case such ancient recipe as they have reference to.


NY—The New York Codex (formerly Cheltenham), Apiciana, I Vat.—The Vatican Codex, Apiciana, II. Vin.—The Codex Salmasianus, Excerpta a Vinidario, Apiciana, III. B. de V.—Edition by Bernardinus, Venice, n.d., Apiciana, No. 1. Lan.—Edition by Lancilotus, Milan, 1498, Apiciana, Nos. 2-3. Tac.—Edition by Tacuinus, Venice, 1503, Apiciana, No. 4. Tor.—Edition by Torinus, Basel (and Lyons), 1541, Apiciana, Nos. 5-6. Hum.—Edition by Humelbergius, Zuerich, 1542, Apiciana, No. 7. List.—Edition by Lister, London, 1705, Amst., 1709, Apiciana, Nos. 8-9. Bern.—Edition by Bernhold, Marktbreit, etc., Apiciana, Nos. 10-11. Bas.—Edition by Baseggio, Venice, 1852, Apiciana, No. 13. Sch.—Edition by Schuch, Heidelberg, 1867/74, Apiciana, Nos. 14-15. Goll.—Edition by Gollmer, Leipzig, 1909, Apiciana, No. 16. Dann.—Edition by Danneil, Leipzig, 1911, Apiciana, No. 17. G.-V.—Edition by Giarratano-Vollmer, Leip. 1922, Apiciana, No. 19. V.—The present translation. Giarr.—Giarratano; Voll.—F. Vollmer; Bran.—Edward Brandt.




Formerly Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago

No translation of Apicius into English has yet been published. The book has been printed again and again in Latin and has been translated into Italian and German. It is unnecessary to here give historic details regarding the work as Mr. Vehling goes fully and admirably into the subject. In 1705 the book was printed in Latin at London, with notes by Dr. Martinus Lister. It caused some stir in the England of that time. In a very curious book, The Art of Cookery, in Imitation of Horace's Art of Poetry, with Some Letters to Dr. Lister and Others, Dr. Wm. King says:

"The other curiosity is the admirable piece of C{oe}lius Apicius, 'De Opsoniis et condimentis sive arte coquinaria, Libri decem' being ten books of soups and sauces, and the art of cookery, as it is excellently printed for the doctor, who in this important affair, is not sufficiently communicative....

"I some days ago met with an old acquaintance, of whom I inquired if he has seen the book concerning soups and sauces? He told me he had, but that he had but a very slight view of it, the person who was master of it not being willing to part with so valuable a rarity out of his closet. I desired him to give me some account of it. He says that it is a very handsome octavo, for, ever since the days of Ogilvy, good paper and good print, and fine cuts, make a book become ingenious and brighten up an author strangely. That there is a copious index; and at the end a catalogue of all the doctor's works, concerning cockles, English beetles, snails, spiders, that get up into the air and throw us down cobwebs; a monster vomited up by a baker and such like; which if carefully perused, would wonderfully improve us."

More than two hundred years have passed and we now have an edition of this curious work in English. And our edition has nothing to lose by comparison with the old one. For this, too, is a handsome book, with good paper and good print and fine cuts. And the man who produces it can equally bear comparison with Dr. Lister and more earlier commentators and editors whom he quotes—Humelbergius and Caspar Barthius.

The preparation of such a book is no simple task and requires a rare combination of qualities. Mr. Vehling possesses this unusual combination. He was born some forty-five years ago in the small town of Duelken on the German-Dutch frontier—a town proverbial for the dullness of its inhabitants. There was nothing of dullness about the boy, however, for at the age of fourteen years, he had already four years study of Latin and one of Greek to his credit. Such was his record in Latin that his priest teachers attempted to influence him toward the priesthood. His family, however, had other plans and believing that he had enough schooling, decided that he should be a cook. As he enjoyed good food, had a taste for travel and independence, and was inclined to submit to family direction, he rather willingly entered upon the career planned for him. He learned the business thoroughly and for six years practiced his art in Germany, Belgium, France, England and Scandinavia. Wherever he went, he gave his hours of freedom to reading and study in libraries and museums.

During his first trip through Italy and on a visit to Pompeii he conceived the idea of depicting some day the table of the Romans and of making the present translation. He commenced to gather all the necessary material for this work, which included intensive studies of the ancient arts and languages. Meanwhile, he continued his hotel work also, quite successfully. At the age of twenty-four he was assistant manager of the fashionable Hotel Bristol, Vienna.

However, the necessities of existence prevented his giving that time and study to art, which is necessary if it was to become a real career. In Vienna he found music, drama, languages, history, literature and gastronomy, and met interesting people from all parts of the globe. While the years at Vienna were the happiest of his life, he had a distaste for the "superheated, aristocratic and military atmosphere." It was at that city that he met the man who was responsible for his coming to America. Were we writing Mr. Vehling's biography, we would have ample material for a racy and startling narrative. We desire only to indicate the remarkable preparation for the work before us, which he has had. A Latin scholar of exceptional promise, a professional cook of pronounced success, and an artist competent to illustrate his own work! Could such a combination be anticipated? It is the combination that has made this book possible.

The book has claims even upon our busy and practical generation. Mr. Vehling has himself stated them:

"The important addition to our knowledge of the ancients—for our popular notions about their table are entirely erroneous and are in need of revision.

"The practical value of many of the ancient formulae—for 'In Olde Things There is Newnesse.'

"The human interest—because of the amazing mentality and the culinary ingenuity of the ancients revealed to us from an altogether new angle.

"The curious novelty and the linguistic difficulty, the philological interest and the unique nature of the task, requiring unique prerequisites—all these factors prompted us to undertake this translation."

One word as to Mr. Vehling's work in America. He was for five years manager of catering at the Hotel Pfister in Milwaukee; for two and a half years he was inspector and instructor of the Canadian Pacific Railway; he was connected with some of the leading hotels in New York City, and with the Eppley and the Van Orman Hotels chains, in executive capacity. He not only has the practical side of food use and preparation, he is an authority upon the science in his field. His printed articles on food and cookery have been read with extraordinary interest, and his lectures upon culinary matters have been well received. It is to be hoped that both will eventually be published in book form.

There is no financial lure in getting out an English translation of Apicius. It is a labor of love—but worth the doing. We have claimed that Mr. Vehling has exceptional fitness for the task. This will be evident to anyone who reads his book. An interesting feature of his preparation is the fact that Mr. Vehling has subjected many of the formulae to actual test. As Dr. Lister in the old edition of 1705 increased the value and interest of the work by making additions from various sources, so our editor of today adds much and interesting matter in his supplements, notes and illustrations.

It is hardly expected that many will follow Mr. Vehling in testing the Apician formulae. Hazlitt in speaking of "The Young Cook's Monitor" which was printed in 1683, says:

"Some of the ingredients proposed for sauces seem to our ears rather prodigious. In one place a contemporary peruser has inserted an ironical calculation in MS. to the effect that, whereas a cod's head could be bought for fourpence, the condiments recommended for it were not to be had for less than nine shillings."

We shall close with a plagiarism oft repeated. It was a plagiarism as long ago as 1736, when it was admitted such in the preface of Smith's "The Compleat Housewife":

"It being grown as fashionable for a book now to appear in public without a preface, as for a lady to appear at a ball without a hoop-petticoat, I shall conform to the custom for fashion-sake and not through any necessity. The subject being both common and universal, needs no argument to introduce it, and being so necessary for the gratification of the appetite, stands in need of no encomiums to allure persons to the practice of it; since there are but a few nowadays who love not good eating and drinking...."

Old Apicius and Joseph Dommers Vehling really need no introduction.

FREDERICK STARR Seattle, Washington, August 3, 1926.


The present first translation into English of the ancient cookery book dating back to Imperial Roman times known as the Apicius book is herewith presented to antiquarians, friends of the Antique as well as to gastronomers, friends of good cheer.

Three of the most ancient manuscript books that exist today bearing the name of Apicius date back to the eighth and ninth century. Ever since the invention of printing Apicius has been edited chiefly in the Latin language. Details of the manuscript books and printed editions will be found under the heading of Apiciana on the following pages.

The present version has been based chiefly upon three principal Latin editions, that of Albanus Torinus, 1541, who had for his authority a codex he found on the island of Megalona, on the editions of Martinus Lister, 1705-9, who based his work upon that of Humelbergius, 1542, and the Giarratano-Vollmer edition, 1922.

We have also scrutinized various other editions forming part of our collection of Apiciana, and as shown by our "family tree of Apicius" have drawn either directly or indirectly upon every known source for our information.

The reasons and raison d'etre for this undertaking become sufficiently clear through Dr. Starr's introduction and through the following critical review.

It has been often said that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach; so here is hoping that we may find a better way of knowing old Rome and antique private life through the study of this cookery book—Europe's oldest and Rome's only one in existence today.

J. D. V. Chicago, in the Spring of 1926.


For many helpful hints, for access to works in their libraries and for their kind and sympathetic interest in this work I am especially grateful to Professor Dr. Edward Brandt, of Munich; to Professor Dr. Margaret Barclay Wilson, of Washington, D.C., and New York City; to Mr. Arnold Shircliffe, and Mr. Walter M. Hill, both of Chicago.

J. D. V. Chicago, in the Summer of 1936.



Ancient bakery and flour mill of the year A.D. 79. Four grain grinders to the right. The method of operating these mills is shown in the sketch of the slaves operating a hand-mill. These mills were larger and were driven by donkeys attached to beams stuck in the square holes. The bake house is to the left, with running water to the right of the entrance to the oven. The oven itself was constructed ingeniously with a view of saving fuel and greatest efficiency.}

{Illustration: WINE DIPPER

Found in Pompeii. Each end of the long handle takes the form of a bird's head. The one close to the bowl holds in its bill a stout wire which is loosely fastened around the neck of the bowl, the two ends being interlocked. This allows the bowl to tilt sufficiently to hold its full contents when retired from the narrow opening of the amphora. The ancients also had dippers with extension handles to reach down to the bottom of the deep amphora. Ntl. Mus., Naples, 73822; Field M. 24181.}



Anyone who would know something worth while about the private and public lives of the ancients should be well acquainted with their table. Then as now the oft quoted maxim stands that man is what he eats.

Much of the ancient life is still shrouded and will forever be hidden by envious forces that have covered up bygone glory and grandeur. Ground into mealy dust under the hoofs of barbarian armies! Re-modeled, re-used a hundred times! Discarded as of no value by clumsy hands! The "Crime of Ignorance" is a factor in league with the forces of destruction. Much is destroyed by blind strokes of fate—fate, eternally pounding this earth in its everlasting enigmatic efforts to shape life into something, the purpose of which we do not understand, the meaning of which we may not even venture to dream of or hope to know.

Whatever there has been preserved by "Providence," by freaks of chance, by virtue of its own inherent strength—whatever has been buried by misers, fondled, treasured by loving hands of collectors and connoisseurs during all these centuries—every speck of ancient dust, every scrap of parchment or papyrus, a corroded piece of metal, a broken piece of stone or glass, so eagerly sought by the archaeologists and historians of the last few generations—all these fragmentary messages from out of the past emphasize the greatness of their time. They show its modernity, its nearness to our own days. They are now hazy reminiscences, as it were, by a middle-aged man of the hopes and the joys of his own youth. These furtive fragments—whatever they are—now tell us a story so full and so rich, they wield so marvelous a power, no man laying claim to possessing any intelligence may pass them without intensely feeling the eternal pathetic appeal to our hearts of these bygone ages that hold us down in an envious manner, begrudging us the warm life-blood of the present, weaving invisible ties around us to make our hearts heavy.

However, we are not here to be impeded by any sentimental considerations. Thinking of the past, we are not so much concerned with the picture that dead men have placed in our path like ever so many bill boards and posters! We do not care for their "ideals" expounded in contemporary histories and eulogies. We are hardly moved by the "facts" such as they would have loved to see them happen, nor do we cherish the figments of their human, very human, subconsciousness.

To gain a correct picture of the Roman table we will therefore set aside for a while the fragments culled from ancient literature and history that have been misused so indiscriminately and so profusely during the last two thousand years—for various reasons. They have become fixed ideas, making reconstruction difficult for anyone who would gain a picture along rational lines. Barring two exceptions, there is no trustworthy detailed description of the ancient table by an objective contemporary observer. To be sure, there are some sporadic efforts, mere reiterations. The majority of the ancient word pictures are distorted views on our subject by partisan writers, contemporary moralists on the one side, satirists on the other. Neither of them, we venture to say, knew the subject professionally. They were not specialists in the sense of modern writers like Reyniere, Rumohr, Vaerst; nor did they approach in technical knowledge medieval writers like Martino, Platina, Torinus.

True there were exceptions. Athenaeus, a most prolific and voluble magiric commentator, quoting many writers and specialists whose names but for him would have never reached posterity. Athenaeus tells about these gastronomers, the greatest of them, Archestratos, men who might have contributed so much to our knowledge of the ancient world, but to us these names remain silent, for the works of these men have perished with the rest of the great library at the disposal of this genial host of Alexandria.

Too, there are Anacharsis and Petronius. They and Athenaeus cannot be overlooked. These three form the bulk of our evidence.

Take on the other hand Plutarch, Seneca, Tertullian, even Pliny, writers who have chiefly contributed to our defective knowledge of the ancient table. They were no gourmets. They were biased, unreliable at best, as regards culinary matters. They deserve our attention merely because they are above the ever present mob of antique reformers and politicians of whom there was legion in Rome alone, under the pagan regime. Their state of mind and their intolerance towards civilized dining did not improve with the advent of Christianity.

The moralists' testimony is substantiated and supplemented rather than refuted by their very antipodes, the satirists, a group headed by Martial, Juvenal and the incomparable Petronius, who really is in a class by himself.

There is one more man worthy of mention in our particular study, Horace, a true poet, the most objective of all writers, man-about-town, pet of society, mundane genius, gifted to look calmly into the innermost heart of his time. His eyes fastened a correct picture on the sensitive diaphragm of a good memory, leaving an impression neither distorted nor "out of focus." His eye did not "pick up," for sundry reasons, the defects of the objects of observation, nor did it work with the uncanny joy of subconscious exaggeration met with so frequently in modern writing, nor did he indulge in that predilection for ugly detail sported by modern art.

So much for Horatius, poet. Still, he was not a specialist in our line. We cannot enroll him among the gifted gourmets no matter how many meals he enjoyed at the houses of his society friends. We are rather inclined to place him among the host of writers, ancient and modern, who have treated the subject of food with a sort of sovereign contempt, or at least with indifference, because its study presented unsurmountable difficulties, and the subject, per se, was a menial one. With this attitude of our potential chief witnesses defined, we have no occasion to further appeal to them here, and we might proceed to real business, to the sifting of the trustworthy material at hand. It is really a relief to know that we have no array of formidable authorities to be considered in our study. We have virgin field before us—i.e., the ruins of ancient greatness grown over by a jungle of two thousand years of hostile posterity.


Pompeii was destroyed in A.D. 79. From its ruins we have obtained in the last half century more information about the intimate domestic and public life of the ancients than from any other single source. What is more important, this vast wealth of information is first hand, unspoiled, undiluted, unabridged, unbiased, uncensored;—in short, untouched by meddlesome human hands.

Though only a provincial town, Pompeii was a prosperous mercantile place, a representative market-place, a favorite resort for fashionable people. The town had hardly recuperated from a preliminary attack by that treacherous mountain, Vesuvius, when a second onslaught succeeded in complete destruction. Suddenly, without warning, this lumbering force majeur visited the ill-fated towns in its vicinity with merciless annihilation. The population, just then enjoying the games in the amphitheatre outside of the "downtown" district, had had hardly time to save their belongings. They escaped with their bare lives. Only the aged, the infirm, the prisoners and some faithful dogs were left behind. Today their bodies in plaster casts may be seen, mute witnesses to a frightful disaster. The town was covered with an airtight blanket of ashes, lava and fine pumice stone. There was no prolonged death struggle, no perceivable decay extended over centuries as was the cruel lot of Pompeii's mistress, Rome. There were no agonies to speak of. The great event was consummated within a few hours. The peace of death settled down to reign supreme after the dust had been driven away by the gentle breezes coming in from the bay of Naples. Some courageous citizens returned, searching in the hot ashes for the crashed-in roofs of their villas, to recover this or that. Perhaps they hoped to salvage the strong box in the atrium, or a heirloom from the triclinium. But soon they gave up. Despairing, or hoping for better days to come, they vanished in the mist of time. Pompeii, the fair, the hospitable, the gay city, just like any individual out of luck, was and stayed forgotten. The Pompeians, their joys, sorrows, their work and play, their virtues and vices—everything was arrested with one single stroke, stopped, even as a camera clicks, taking a snapshot.

The city's destruction, it appears, was a formidable opening blow dealt the Roman empire in the prime of its life, in a war of extermination waged by hostile invisible forces. Pompeii makes one believe in "Providence." A great disaster actually moulding, casting a perfect image of the time for future generations! To be exact, it took these generations eighteen centuries to discover and to appreciate the heritage that was theirs, buried at the foot of Vesuvius. During these long dark and dusky centuries charming goat herds had rested unctuous shocks of hair upon mysterious columns that, like young giant asparagus, stuck their magnificent heads out of the ground. Blinking drowsily at yonder villainous mountain, the summit of which is eternally crowned with a halo of thin white smoke, such as we are accustomed to see arising from the stacks of chemical factories, the confident shepherd would lazily implore his patron saint to enjoin that unreliable devilish force within lest the dolce far niente of the afternoon be disturbed, for siestas are among the most important functions in the life of that region. Occasionally the more enterprising would arm themselves with pick-axe and shovel, made bold by whispered stories of fabulous wealth, and, defying the evil spirits protecting it, they would set out on an expedition of loot and desecration of the tomb of ancient splendor.

Only about a century and a half ago the archaeological conscience awoke. Only seventy-five years ago energetic moves made possible a fruitful pilgrimage to this shrine of humanity, while today not more than two-thirds but perhaps the most important parts of the city have been opened to our astonished eyes by men who know.

And now: we may see that loaf of bread baked nineteen centuries ago, as found in the bake shop. We may inspect the ingenious bake oven where it was baked. We may see the mills that ground the flour for the bread, and, indeed find unground wheat kernels. We see the oil still preserved in the jugs, the residue of wine still in the amphorae, the figs preserved in jars, the lentils, the barley, the spices in the cupboard; everything awaits our pleasure: the taverns with their "bars"; the ancient guests' opinion of Mine Host scribbled on the wall, the kitchens with their implements, the boudoirs of milady's with the cosmetics and perfumes in the compacts. There are the advertisements on the walls, the foods praised with all the eclat of modern advertising, the election notices, the love missives, the bank deposits, the theatre tickets, law records, bills of sale.

Phantom-like yet real there are the good citizens of a good town, parading, hustling, loafing—sturdy patricians, wretched plebeians, stern centurios, boastful soldiers, scheming politicians, crafty law-clerks, timid scribes, chattering barbers, bullying gladiators, haughty actors, dusty travelers, making for Albinus', the famous host at the Via della Abbondanza or, would he give preference to Sarinus, the son of Publius, who advertised so cleverly? Or, perhaps, could he afford to stop at the "Fortunata" Hotel, centrally located?

There are, too, the boorish hayseeds from out of town trying to sell their produce, unaccustomed to the fashionable Latin-Greek speech of the city folks, gaping with their mouths wide open, greedily at the steaks of sacrificial meat displayed behind enlarging glasses in the cheap cook shop windows. There they giggle and chuckle, those wily landlords with their blase habitues and their underlings, the greasy cooks, the roguish "good mixers" at the bar and the winsome if resolute copae—waitresses—all ready to go, to do business. So slippery are the cooks that Plautus calls one Congrio—sea eel—so black that another deserves the title Anthrax—coal.

There they are, one and all, the characters necessary to make up what we call civilization, chattering agitatedly in a lingo of Latin-Greek-Oscan—as if life were a continuous market day.

It takes no particular scholarship, only a little imagination and human sympathy to see and to hear the ghosts of Pompeii.

There is no pose about this town, no mise-en-scene, no stage-setting. No heroic gesture. No theatricals, in short, no lies. There is to be found no shred of that vainglorious cloak which humans will deftly drape about their shoulders whenever they happen to be aware of the camera. There is no "registering" of any kind here.

Pompeii's natural and pleasant disposition, therefore, is ever so much more in evidence. Not a single one of this charming city's movements was intended for posterity. Her life stands before our eyes in clear reality, in naked, unadorned truth. Indeed, there were many things that the good folks would have loved to point to with pride. You have to search for these now. There are, alas and alack, a few things they would have hidden, had they only known what was in store for them. But all these things, good, indifferent and bad, remained in their places; and here they are, unsuspecting, real, natural, charming like Diana and her wood nymphs.

Were it not quite superfluous, we would urgently recommend the study of Pompeii to the students of life in general and to those of Antiquity in particular. Those who would know something about the ancient table cannot do without Pompeii.


To those who lay stress upon documentary evidence or literary testimony, to those trusting implicitly in the honesty and reliability of writers of fiction, we would recommend Petronius Arbiter.

His cena Trimalchionis, Trimalchio's dinner, is the sole surviving piece from the pen of a Roman contemporary, giving detailed information on our subject. It is, too, the work of a great writer moving in the best circles, and, therefore, so much more desirable as an expert. Petronius deserves to be quoted in full but his work is too well-known, and our space too short. However, right here we wish to warn the student to bear in mind in perusing Petronius that this writer, in his cena, is not depicting a meal but that he is satirizing a man—that makes all the difference in the world as far as we are concerned. Petronius' cena is plainly an exaggeration, but even from its distorted contours the student may recognize the true lines of an ancient meal.

There is, not so well-known a beautiful picture of an Athenian dinner party which must not be overlooked, for it contains a wealth of information. Although Greek, we learn from it much of the Roman conditions. Anacharsis' description of a banquet at Athens, dating back to the fourth century B.C. about the time when the Periclean regime flourished, is worth your perusal. A particularly good version of this tale is rendered by Baron Vaerst in his book "Gastrosophie," Leipzig, 1854, who has based his version on the original translation from the Greek, entitled, Voyage du jeune Anacharsis en Grece vers le milieu du quatrieme siecle avant l'ere vulgaire par J. J. Barthelemy, Paris, 1824. Vaerst has amplified the excerpts from the young traveler's observations by quotations from other ancient Greek writers upon the subject, thus giving us a most beautiful and authentic ideal description of Greek table manners and habits when Athens had reached the height in culture, refinement and political greatness.

Anacharsis was not a Hellene but a Scythian visitor. By his own admission he is no authority on Grecian cookery, but as a reporter he excels.

This truly Hellenic discussion of the art of eating and living at the table of the cultured Athenians is the most profound discourse we know of, ancient or modern, on eating. The wisdom revealed in this tale is lasting, and, like Greek marble, consummate in external beauty and inner worth.

We thus possess the testimony of two contemporary writers which together with the book of Apicius and with what we learn from Athenaeus should give a fair picture of ancient eating and cookery.

Apicius is our most substantial witness.

Unfortunately, this source has not been spared by meddlesome men, and it has not reached us in its pristine condition. As a matter of fact, Apicius has been badly mauled throughout the centuries. This book has always attracted attention, never has it met with indifference. In the middle ages it became the object of intensive study, interpretation, controversy—in short it has attracted interest that has lasted into modern times.

When, with the advent of the dark ages, it ceased to be a practical cookery book, it became a treasure cherished by the few who preserved the classical literature, and after the invention of printing it became the object of curiosity, even mystery. Some interpreters waxed enthusiastic over it, others who failed to understand it, condemned it as hopeless and worthless.

The pages of our Apiciana plainly show the lasting interest in our ancient book, particularly ever since its presence became a matter of common knowledge during the first century of printing.

The Apicius book is the most ancient of European cookery books. However, Platina's work, de honesta uolvptate, is the first cookery book to appear in print. Platina, in 1474, was more up-to-date. His book had a larger circulation. But its vogue stopped after a century while Apicius marched on through centuries to come, tantalizing the scholars, amusing the curious gourmets if not educated cooks to the present day.


Who was Apicius? This is the surname of several renowned gastronomers of old Rome. There are many references and anecdotes in ancient literature to men bearing this name. Two Apicii have definitely been accounted for. The older one, Marcus A. lived at the time of Sulla about 100 B.C. The man we are most interested in, M. Gabius Apicius, lived under Augustus and Tiberius, 80 B.C. to A.D. 40. However, both these men had a reputation for their good table.


It is worth noting that the well-read Athenaeus, conversant with most authors of Antiquity makes no mention of the Apicius book. This collection of recipes, then, was not in general circulation during Athenaei time (beginning of the third century of our era), that, maybe, it was kept a secret by some Roman cooks. On the other hand it is possible that the Apicius book did not exist during the time of Athenaeus in the form handed down to us and that the monographs on various departments of cookery (most of them of Greek origin, works of which indeed Athenaeus speaks) were collected after the first quarter of the third century and were adorned with the name of Apicius merely because his fame as a gourmet had endured.

What Athenaeus knows about Apicius (one of three known famous eaters bearing that name) is the following:

"About the time of Tiberius [42 B.C.-37 A.D.] there lived a man, named Apicius; very rich and luxurious, for whom several kinds of cheesecake called Apician, are named [not found in our present A.]. He spent myriads of drachmas on his belly, living chiefly at Minturnae, a city of Campania, eating very expensive crawfish, which are found in that place superior in size to those of Smyrna, or even to the crabs of Alexandria. Hearing, too, that they were very large in Africa, he sailed thither, without waiting a single day, and suffered exceedingly on his voyage. But when he came near the coast, before he disembarked (for his arrival made a great stir among the Africans) the fishermen came alongside in their boats and brought him some very fine crawfish; and he, when he saw them, asked if they had any finer; and when they said that there were none finer than those which they had brought, he, recollecting those at Minturnae ordered the master of the ship to sail back the same way into Italy, without going near the land....

"When the emperor Trajan [A.D. 52 or 53-117] was in Parthia [a country in Asia, part of Persia?] at a distance of many days from the sea, Apicius sent him fresh oysters, which he had kept so by a clever contrivance of his own; real oysters...."

(The instructions given in our Apicius book, Recipe 14, for the keeping of oysters would hardly guarantee their safe arrival on such a journey as described above.)

Athenaeus tells us further that many of the Apician recipes were famous and that many dishes were named after him. This confirms the theory that Apicius was not the author of the present book but that the book was dedicated to him by an unknown author or compiler. Athenaeus also mentions one Apion who wrote a book on luxurious living. Whether this man is identical with the author or patron of our book is problematic. Torinus, in his epistola dedicatoria to the 1541 edition expresses the same doubt.

Marcus Gabius (or Gavius) Apicius lived during Rome's most interesting epoch, when the empire had reached its highest point, when the seeds of decline, not yet apparent, were in the ground, when in the quiet villages of that far-off province, Palestine, the Saviour's doctrines fascinated humble audiences—teachings that later reaching the very heart of the world's mistress were destined to tarnish the splendor of that autocrat.

According to the mention by various writers, this man, M. Gabius Apicius, was one of the many ancient gastronomers who took the subject of food seriously. Assuming a scientific attitude towards eating and food they were criticised for paying too much attention to their table. This was considered a superfluous and indeed wicked luxury when frugality was a virtue. These men who knew by intuition the importance of knowing something about nutrition are only now being vindicated by the findings of modern science.

M. Gabius Apicius, this most famous of the celebrated and much maligned bon-vivants, quite naturally took great interest in the preparation of food. He is said to have originated many dishes himself; he collected much material on the subject and he endowed a school for the teaching of cookery and for the promotion of culinary ideas. This very statement by his critics places him high in our esteem, as it shows him up as a scientist and educator. He spent his vast fortune for food, as the stories go, and when he had only a quarter million dollars left (a paltry sum today but a considerable one in those days when gold was scarce and monetary standards in a worse muddle than today) Apicius took his own life, fearing that he might have to starve to death some day.

This story seems absurd on the face of it, yet Seneca and Martial tell it (both with different tendencies) and Suidas, Albino and other writers repeat it without critical analysis. These writers who are unreliable in culinary matters anyway, claim that Apicius spent one hundred million sestertii on his appetite—in gulam. Finally when the hour of accounting came he found that there were only ten million sestertii left, so he concluded that life was not worth living if his gastronomic ideas could no longer be carried out in the accustomed and approved style, and he took poison at a banquet especially arranged for the occasion.

In the light of modern experience with psychology, with economics, depressions, journalism, we focus on this and similar stories, and we find them thoroughly unreliable. We cannot believe this one. It is too melodramatic, too moralistic perhaps to suit our modern taste. The underlying causes for the conduct, life and end of Apicius have not been told. Of course, we have to accept the facts as reported. If only a Petronius had written that story! What a story it might have been! But there is only one Petronius in antiquity. His Trimalchio, former slave, successful profiteer and food speculator, braggard and drunkard, wife-beater—an upstart who arranged extravagant banquets merely to show off, who, by the way, also arranged for his funeral at his banquet (Apician fashion and, indeed, Petronian fashion! for Petronius died in the same manner) and who peacefully "passed out" soundly intoxicated—this man is a figure true to life as it was then, as it is now and as it probably will continue to be. Last but not least: Mrs. Trimalchio, the resolute lady who helped him "make his pile"—these are human characters much more real, much more trustworthy than anything and everything else ever depicted by any ancient pen; they bring out so graphically the modernity of antiquity. Without Petronius and Pompeii the antique world would forever remain at an inexplicably remote distance to our modern conception of life. With him, and with the dead city, the riddles of antiquity are cleared up.


Many dishes listed in Apicius are named for various celebrities who flourished at a later date than the second Apicius. It is noteworthy, however, that neither such close contemporaries as Heliogabalus and Nero, notorious gluttons, nor Petronius, the arbiter of fashion of the period, are among the persons thus honored. Vitellius, a later glutton, is well represented in the book. It is fair to assume, then, that the author or collector of our present Apicius lived long after the second Apicius, or, at least, that the book was augmented by persons posterior to M. Gabius A. The book in its present state was probably completed about the latter part of the third century. It is almost certain that many recipes were added to a much earlier edition.


We may as well add another to the many speculations by saying that it is quite probable for our book to originate in a number of Greek manuals or monographs on specialized subjects or departments of cookery. Such special treatises are mentioned by Athenaeus (cf. Humelbergius, quoted by Lister). The titles of each chapter (or book) are in Greek, the text is full of Greek terminology. While classification under the respective titles is not strictly adhered to at all times, it is significant that certain subjects, that of fish cookery, for instance, appear twice in the book, the same subject showing treatment by widely different hands. Still more significant is the absence in our book of such important departments as desserts—dulcia—confections in which the ancients were experts. Bakery, too, even the plainest kind, is conspicuously absent in the Apician books. The latter two trades being particularly well developed, were departmentalized to an astonishing degree in ancient Greece and Rome. These indispensable books are simply wanting in our book if it be but a collection of Greek monographs. Roman culture and refinement of living, commencing about 200-250 years before our era was under the complete rule of Hellas. Greek influence included everybody from philosophers, artists, architects, actors, law-makers to cooks.

"The conquered thus conquered the conquerors."

Humelbergius makes a significant reference to the origin of Apicius. We confess, we have not checked up this worthy editor nor his successor, Dr. Lister, whom he quotes in the preface as to the origin of our book. With reference to Plato's work, Humelbergius says:

"Que res tota spectat medicinae partem, quae diaitetike appelatur, et victu medetur: at in hac tes diaitetikes parte totus est Apicius noster."

In our opinion, unfounded of course by positive proof, the Apicius book is somewhat of a gastronomic bible, consisting of ten different books by several authors, originating in Greece and taken over by the Romans along with the rest of Greek culture as spoils of war. These books, or chapters, or fragments thereof, must have been in vogue long before they were collected and assembled in the present form. Editions, or copies of the same must have been numerous, either singly or collectively, at the beginning of our era. As a matter of fact, the Excerpts by Vinidarius, found in the codex Salmasianus prove this theory and give rise to the assumption that the Apicius book was a standard work for cookery that existed at one time or other in a far more copious volume and that the present Apicius is but a fragment of a formerly vaster and more complete collection of culinary and medical formulae.

Thus a fragmentary Apicius has been handed down to us in manuscript form through the centuries, through the revolutionary era of Christian ascendancy, through the dark ages down to the Renaissance. Unknown agencies, mostly medical and monastic, stout custodians of antique learning, reverent lovers of good cheer have preserved it for us until printing made possible the book's wide distribution among the scholars. Just prior to Gutenberg's epoch-making printing press there was a spurt of interest in our book in Italy, as attested to by a dozen of manuscripts, copied in the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries.

Apicius may justly be called the world's oldest cookery book; the very old Sanscrit book, Vasavarayeyam, unknown to us except by name, is said to be a tract on vegetarian cookery.

The men who have preserved this work for future generations, who have made it accessible to the public (as was Lister's intention) have performed a service to civilization that is not to be underestimated. They have done better than the average archaeologist with one or another find to his credit. The Apicius book is a living thing, capable of creating happiness. Some gastronomic writers have pointed out that the man who discovers a new dish does more for humanity than the man who discovers a new star, because the discovery of a new dish affects the happiness of mankind more pleasantly than the addition of a new planet to an already overcrowded chart of the universe. Viewing Apicius from such a materialistic point of view he should become very popular in this age of ours so keen for utilities of every sort.


The name of another personality is introduced in connection with the book, namely that of C{oe}lius or Caelius. This name is mentioned in the title of the first undated edition (ca. 1483-6) as Celius. Torinus, 1541, places "Caelius" before "Apicius"; Humelbergius, 1542, places "C{oe}lius" after A. Lister approves of this, berating Torinus for his willful methods of editing the book: "En hominem in conjecturis sane audacissimus!" If any of them were correct about "C{oe}lius," Torinus would be the man. (Cf. Schanz, Roem. Lit. Gesch., Mueller's Handbuch d. klass. Altertums-Wissenschaft, V III, 112, p. 506.) However, there is no raison d'etre for C{oe}lius.

His presence and the unreality thereof has been cleared up by Vollmer, as will be duly shown. The squabble of the medieval savants has also given rise to the story that Apicius is but a joke perpetrated upon the world by a medieval savant. This will be refuted also later on. Our book is a genuine Roman. Medieval savants have made plenty of Roman "fakes," for sundry reasons. A most ingenious hoax was the "completion" of the Petronius fragment by a scholar able to hoodwink his learned contemporaries by an exhibition of Petronian literary style and a fertile imagination. Ever so many other "fakers" were shown up in due time. When this version of Petronius was pronounced genuine by the scientific world, the perpetrator of the "joke" confessed, enjoying a good laugh at the expense of his colleagues. But we shall presently understand how such a "joke" with Apicius would be impossible. Meanwhile, we crave the indulgence of the modern reader with our mention of C{oe}lius. We desire to do full justice to the ancient work and complete the presentation of its history. The controversies that have raged over it make this course necessary.

Our predecessors have not had the benefit of modern communication, and, therefore, could not know all that is to be known on the subject. We sympathize with Lister yet do not condemn Torinus. If Torinus ever dared making important changes in the old text, they are easily ascertained by collation with other texts. This we have endeavored to do. Explaining the discrepancies, it will be noted that we have not given a full vote of confidence to Lister.

Why should the mysterious C{oe}lius or Caelius, if such an author or compiler of a tome on cookery existed affix the name of "Apicius" to it? The reason would be commercial gain, prestige accruing from the name of that cookery celebrity. Such business sense would not be extraordinary. Modern cooks pursue the same method. Witness the innumerable a la soandsos. Babies, apartment houses, streets, cities, parks, dogs, race horses, soap, cheese, herring, cigars, hair restorers are thus named today. "Apicius" on the front page of any ancient cookery book would be perfectly consistent with the ancient spirit of advertising. It has been stated, too, that C{oe}lius had more than one collaborator. Neither can this be proven.

The copyists have made many changes throughout the original text. Misspelling of terms, ignorance of cookery have done much to obscure the meaning. The scribes of the middle ages had much difficulty in this respect since medieval Latin is different from Apician language.

The very language of the original is proof for its authenticity. The desire of Torinus to interpret to his medieval readers the ancient text is pardonable. How much or how little he succeeded is attested to by some of his contemporary readers, former owners of our copies. Scholars plainly confess inability to decipher Apicius by groans inscribed on the fly leaves and title pages in Latin, French and other languages. One French scholar of the 16th century, apparently "kidded" for studying an undecipherable cook book, stoically inscribes the title page of our Lyon, 1541, copy with: "This amuses me. Why make fun of me?" This sort of message, reaching us out of the dim past of bygone centuries is among the most touching reading we have done, and has urged us on with the good though laborious and unprofitable work.

Notwithstanding its drawbacks, our book is a classic both as to form and contents. It has served as a prototype of most ancient and modern books. Its influence is felt to the present day.

The book has often been cited by old writers as proof of the debaucheries and the gluttony of ancient Rome. Nothing could be further from the truth because these writers failed to understand the book.

The Apicius book reflects the true condition (partly so, because it is incomplete) of the kitchen prevailing at the beginning of our era when the mistress of the Old World was in her full regalia, when her ample body had not yet succumbed to that fatty degeneration of the interior so fatal to ever so many individuals, families, cities and nations.

We repeat, our Apicius covers Rome's healthy epoch; hence the importance of the book. The voluptuous concoctions, the fabulous dishes, the proverbial excesses that have made decent people shudder with disgust throughout the ages are not known to Apicius. If they ever existed at all in their traditional ugliness they made their appearance after Apicius' time. We recall, Petronius, describing some of these "stunts" is a contemporary of Nero (whom he satirizes as "Trimalchio"). So is Seneca, noble soul, another victim of Caesarean insanity; he, too, describes Imperial excesses. These extremely few foolish creations are really at the bottom of the cause for this misunderstanding of true Roman life. Such stupidity has allowed the joy of life which, as Epikuros and Platina believe, may be indulged in with perfect virtue and honesty to become a byword among all good people who are not gastronomers either by birth, by choice or by training.

With due justice to the Roman people may we be permitted to say that proverbial excesses were exceedingly rare occurrences. The follies and the vices of a Nero, a boy Heliogabalus, a Pollio, a Vitellius and a few other notorious wasters are spread sporadically over a period of at least eight hundred years. Between these cases of gastronomic insanity lie wellnigh a thousand years of everyday grind and drudgery of the Roman people. The bulk was miserably fed as compared with modern standards of living. Only a few patricians could afford "high living." Since a prosperous bourgeoisie (usually the economic and gastronomic background of any nation) was practically unknown in Rome, where the so-called middle classes were in reality poor, shiftless and floating freedmen, it is evident that the bulk of the population because of the empire's unsettled economic conditions, its extensive system of slavery (precluding all successful practice of trades by freemen), the continuous military operations, the haphazard financial system, was forced to live niggardly. The contrast between the middle classes and the upper classes seemed very cruel. This condition may account for the many outcries against the "extravagances" of the few privileged ones who could afford decent food and for the exaggerated stories about their table found in the literature of the time.

The seemingly outlandish methods of Apician food preparation become plain and clear in the light of social evolution. "Evolution" is perhaps not the right word to convey our idea of social perpetual motion.

Apicius used practically all the cooking utensils in use today. He only lacked gas, electricity and artificial refrigeration, modern achievements while useful in the kitchen and indispensable in wholesale production and for labor saving, that have no bearing on purely gastronomical problems. There is only one difference between the cooking utensils of yore and the modern products: the old ones are hand-made, more individualistic, more beautiful, more artistic than our machine-made varieties.

Despite his strangeness and remoteness, Apicius is not dead by any means. We have but to inspect (as Gollmer has pointed out) the table of the Southern Europeans to find Apician traditions alive. In the Northern countries, too, are found his traces. To think that Apicius should have survived in the North of Europe, far removed from his native soil, is a rather audacious suggestion. But the keen observer can find him in Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Baltic provinces today. The conquerors and seafarers coming from the South have carried the pollen of gastronomic flowers far into the North where they adjusted themselves to soil and climate. Many a cook of the British isles, of Southern Sweden, Holstein, Denmark, Friesland, Pomerania still observes Apicius rules though he may not be aware of the fact.

We must realize that Apicius is only a book, a frail hand-made record and that, while the record itself might have been forgotten, its principles have become international property, long ago. Thus they live on. Like a living thing—a language, a custom, they themselves may have undergone changes, "improvements," alterations, augmentation, corruption. But the character has been preserved; a couple of thousand years are, after all, but a paltry matter. Our own age is but the grandchild of antiquity. The words we utter, in their roots, are those of our grandfathers. And so do many dishes we eat today resemble those once enjoyed by Apicius and his friends.

Is it necessary to point the tenacity of the spirit of the Antique, reaching deep into the modern age? The latest Apicius edition in the original Latin is dated 1922!

The gastronomic life of Europe was under the complete rule of old Rome until the middle of the seventeenth century. Then came a sudden change for modernity, comparable to the rather abrupt change of languages from the fashionable Latin to the national idioms and vernacular, in England and Germany under the influence of literary giants like Luther, Chaucer, Shakespeare.

All medieval food literature of the continent and indeed the early cookery books of England prior to La Varenne (Le Cuisinier Francois, 1654) are deeply influenced by Apicius. The great change in eating, resulting in a new gastronomic order, attained its highest peak of perfection just prior to the French revolution. Temporarily suspended by this social upheaval, it continued to flourish until about the latter part of last century. The last decades of this new order is often referred to as the classical period of gastronomy, with France claiming the laurels for its development. "Classic" for reasons we do not know (Urbain Dubois, outstanding master of this period wrote "La Cuisine classique") except that its precepts appeal as classical to our notion of eating. This may not correspond to the views of posterity, we had therefore better wait a century or two before proclaiming our system of cookery "classical."

Disposing of that old "classic," Apicius, as slowly as a conservative cooking world could afford to do, the present nations set out to cultivate a taste for things that a Roman would have pronounced unfit for a slave. Still, the world moves on. Conquest, discovery of foreign parts, the New World, contributed fine things to the modern table,—old forgotten foods were rediscovered—endless lists of materials and combinations, new daring, preposterous dishes that made the younger generation rejoice while old folks looked on gasping with dismay, despair, contempt.

Be it sufficient to remark that the older practitioners of our own days, educated in "classic" cuisine again are quite apprehensive of their traditions endangered by the spirit of revolt of the young against the old. Again and again we hear of a decline that has set in, and even by the best authorities alarmist notes are spread to the effect that "we have begun our journey back, step by step to our primitive tree and our primitive nuts" (Pennell. Does Spengler consider food in his "Decline of the West?").

It matters not whether we share this pessimism, nor what we may have to say pro or con this question of "progress" or "retrogression" in eating (or in anything else for that matter). In fact we are not concerned with the question here more than to give it passing attention.

If "classic" cookery is dying nowadays, if it cannot reassert itself that would be a loss to mankind. But this classic cookery system has so far only been the sole and exclusive privilege of a dying aristocracy. It seems quite in order that it should go under in the great Goetterdaemmerung that commenced with the German peasants wars of the sixteenth century, flaring up (as the second act) in the French revolution late in the eighteenth century, the Act III of which drama has been experienced in our own days.

The common people as yet have never had an active part in the enjoyment of the classic art of eating. So far, they always provided the wherewithal, and looked on, holding the bag. Modern hotels, because of their commercial character, have done little to perpetuate it. They merely have commercialized the art. Beyond exercising ordinary salesmanship, our maitres d'hotel have not educated our nouveaux riches in the mysteries and delights of gastronomy. Hotelmen are not supposed to be educators, they merely cater to a demand. And our new aristocracy has been too busy with limousines, golf, divorces and electricity to bemourn the decline of classic cookery.

Most people "get by" without the benefit of classic cookery, subsisting on a medley of edibles, tenaciously clinging to mother's traditions, to things "as she used to make them," and mother's methods still savor of Apicius. Surely, this is no sign of retrogression but of tenacity.

The only fundamental difference between Roman dining and that of our own times may be found in these two indisputable facts—

(First) Devoid of the science of agriculture, without any advanced mechanical means, food was not raised in a very systematic way; if it happened to be abundant, Roma lacked storage and transportation facilities to make good use of it. There never were any food supplies on any large, extensive and scientific scale, hence raw materials, the wherewithal of a "classic" meal, were expensive.

(Second) Skilled labor, so vital for the success of any good dinner, so imperative for the rational preparation of food was cheap to those who held slaves.

Hence, the culinary conditions of ancient Rome were exactly the opposite of today's state of affairs. Then, good food was expensive while good labor was cheap. Now, good food is cheap while skilled labor is at a premium. Somehow, good, intelligent "labor" is reluctant to devote itself to food. That is another story. The chances for a good dinner seemed to be in favor of the Romans—but only for a favored few. Those of us, although unable to command a staff of experts, but able to prepare their own meals rationally and serve them well are indeed fortunate. With a few dimes they may dine in royal fashion. If our much maligned age has achieved anything at all it has at least enabled the working "slave" of the "masses" to dine in a manner that even princes could hardly match in former days, a manner indeed that the princes of our own time could not improve upon. The fly in the ointment is that most modern people do not know how to handle and to appreciate food. This condition, however, may be remedied by instruction and education.

Slowly, the modern masses are learning to emulate their erstwhile masters in the art of eating. They have the advantages of the great improvements in provisioning as compared with former days, thanks chiefly to the great lines of communication established by modern commerce, thanks to scientific agriculture and to the spirit of commercial enterprise and its resulting prosperity.

There are two "Ifs" in the path to humanity's salvation, at least, that of its table. If the commercialization of cookery, i.e., the wholesale production of ready-made foods for the table does not completely enthrall the housewife and if we can succeed to educate the masses to make rational, craftsmanlike use of our wonderful stores of edibles, employing or modifying to this end the rules of classic cookery, there really should be no need for any serious talk about our journey back to the primitive nuts. Even Spengler might be wrong then. Adequate distribution of our foods and rational use thereof seem to be one of the greatest problems today.


Age-old mysteries surrounding our book have not yet been cleared up. Medieval savants have squabbled in vain. Mrs. Pennell's worries and the fears of the learned Englishmen that Apicius might be a hoax have proven groundless. Still, the mystery of this remarkable book is as perplexing as ever. The authorship will perhaps never be established. But let us forever dispel any doubt about its authenticity.

Modern writers have never doubted the genuineness. To name but a few who believe in Apicius: Thudichum, Vollmer, Brandt, Vicaire, Rumohr, Schuch, Habs, Gollmer.

What matters the identity of the author? Who wrote the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Nibelungen-Lied? Let us be thankful for possessing them!

Apicius is a genuine document of Roman imperial days. There can be no doubt of that!

The unquestionable age of the earliest known manuscripts alone suffices to prove this.

The philologist gives his testimony, too. A medieval scholar could never have manufactured Apicius, imitating his strikingly original terminology. "Faking" a technical treatise requires an intimate knowledge of technical terms and familiarity with the ramifications of an intricate trade. We recommend a comparison of Platina's text with Apicius: the difference of ancient and medieval Latin is convincing. Striking examples of this kind have been especially noted in our dictionary of technical terms.


H. C. Coote, in his commentary on Apicius (cit. Apiciana) in speaking of pan gravy, remarks:

"Apicius calls this by the singular phrase of jus de suo sibi! and sometimes though far less frequently, succus suus. This phrase is curious enough in itself to deserve illustration. It is true old fashioned Plautian Latinity, and if other proof were wanting would of itself demonstrate the genuineness of the Apician text."

This scholar goes on quoting from Plautus, Captivi, Act I, sc. 2, vv. 12, 13; Amphitruo, Act I, sc. q.v. 116 and ibid. v. 174; and from Asinaria, Act IV, sc. 2, vv. 16 and 17 to prove this, and he further says:

"The phrase is a rare remnant of the old familiar language of Rome, such as slaves talked so long, that their masters ultimately adopted it—a language of which Plautus gives us glimpses and which the graffiti may perhaps help to restore. When Varius was emperor, this phrase of the kitchen was as rife as when Plautus wrote—a proof that occasionally slang has been long lived."

Coote is a very able commentator. He has translated in the article quoted a number of Apician formulae; and betrays an unusual culinary knowledge.


Modern means of communication and photography have enabled scientists in widely different parts to study our book from all angles, to scrutinize the earliest records, the Vatican and the New York manuscripts and the codex Salmasianus in Paris.

Friedrich Vollmer, of Munich, in his Studien (cit. Apiciana) has treated the manuscripts exhaustively, carrying to completion the research begun by Schuch, Traube, Ihm, Studemund, Giarratano and others with Brandt, his pupil, carrying on the work of Vollmer. More modern scientists deeply interested in the origin of our book! None doubting its genuineness.

Vollmer is of the opinion that there reposed in the monastery of Fulda, Germany, an Archetypus which in the ninth century was copied twice: once in a Turonian hand—the manuscript now kept in the Vatican—the other copy written partly in insular, partly in Carolingian minuscle—the Cheltenham codex, now in New York. The common source at Fulda of these two manuscripts has been established by Traube. There is another testimony pointing to Fulda as the oldest known source. Pope Nicholas V commissioned Enoche of Ascoli to acquire old manuscripts in Germany. Enoche used as a guide a list of works based upon observations by Poggio in Germany in 1417, listing the Apicius of Fulda. Enoche acquired the Fulda Apicius. He died in October or November, 1457. On December 10th of that year, so we know, Giovanni de'Medici requested Stefano de'Nardini, Governor of Ancona, to procure for him from Enoche's estate either in copy or in the original the book, entitled, Appicius de re quoquinaria (cf. No. 3, Apiciana). It is interesting to note that one of the Milanese editions of 1498 bears a title in this particular spelling. Enoche during his life time had lent the book to Giovanni Aurispa.

It stands to reason that Poggio, in 1417, viewed at Fulda the Archetypus of our Apicius, father of the Vatican and the New York manuscripts, then already mutilated and wanting books IX and X. Six hundred years before the arrival of Poggio the Fulda book was no longer complete. Already in the ninth century its title page had been damaged which is proven by the title page of the Vatican copy which reads:


That's all! The New York copy, it has been noted, has no title page. This book commences in the middle of the list of chapters; the first part of them and the title page are gone. We recall that the New York manuscript was originally bound up with another manuscript, also in the Phillipps library at Cheltenham. The missing page or pages were probably lost in separating the two manuscripts. It is possible that Enoche carried with him to Italy one of the ancient copies, very likely the present New York copy, then already without a title. At any rate, not more than twenty-five years after his book hunting expedition we find both copies in Italy. It is strange, furthermore, that neither of these two ancient copies were used by the fifteenth century copyists to make the various copies distributed by them, but that an inferior copy of the Vatican Ms. became the vulgata—the progenitor of this series of medieval copies. One must bear in mind how assiduously medieval scribes copied everything that appeared to be of any importance to them, and how each new copy by virtue of human fallibility or self-sufficiency must have suffered in the making, and it is only by very careful comparison of the various manuscripts that the original text may be rehabilitated.

This, to a large extent, Vollmer and Giarratano have accomplished. Vollmer, too, rejects the idea invented by the humanists, that Apicius had a collaborator, editor or commentator in the person of C{oe}lius or Caelius. This name, so Vollmer claims, has been added to the book by medieval scholars without any reason except conjecture for such action. They have been misled by the mutilated title: Api... Cae...; Vollmer reconstructs this title as follows:

API[cii artis magiri- (or) opsartyti-] CAE[libri X]

Remember, it is the title page only that is thus mutilated. The ten books or chapters bear the full name of Apicius, never at any time does the name of C{oe}lius appear in the text, or at the head of the chapters.

The Archetypus, with the book and the chapters carefully indexed and numbered as they were, with each article neatly titled, the captions and capital letters rubricated—heightened by red color, and with its proper spacing of the articles and chapters must once have been a representative example of the art of book making as it flourished towards the end of the period that sealed the fate of the Roman empire, when books of a technical nature, law books, almanacs, army lists had been developed to a high point of perfection. Luxurious finish, elaborate illumination point to the fact that our book (the Vatican copy) was intended for the use in some aristocratic household.


And now, from a source totally different than the two important manuscripts so much discussed here, we receive additional proof of the authenticity of Apicius. In the codex Salmasianus (cf. III, Apiciana) we find some thirty formulae attributed to Apicius, entitled: Apici excerpta a Vinidario vir. inl. They have been accepted as genuine by Salmasius and other early scholars. Schuch incorporated the excerpta with his Apicius, placing the formulae in what he believed to be the proper order. This course, for obvious reasons, is not to be recommended. To be sure, the excerpta are Apician enough in character, though only a few correspond to, or are actual duplicates of, the Apician precepts. They are additions to the stock of authentic Apician recipes. As such, they may not be included but be appended to the traditional text. The excerpta encourage the belief that at the time of Vinidarius (got. Vinithaharjis) about the fifth century there must have been in circulation an Apicius (collection of recipes) much more complete than the one handed down to us through Fulda. It is furthermore interesting to note that the excerpta, too, are silent about C{oe}lius.

We may safely join Vollmer in his belief that M. Gabius Apicius, celebrated gourmet living during the reign of Tiberius was the real author, or collector, or sponsor of this collection of recipes, or at least of the major part thereof—the formulae bearing the names of posterior gourmets having been added from time to time. This theory also applies to the two instances where the name of Varro is mentioned in connection with the preparation of beets and onions (bulbs). It is hardly possible that the author of the book made these references to Varro. It is more probable that some well-versed posterior reader, perusing the said articles, added to his copy: "And Varro prepared beets this way, and onions that way...." (cf. Book III, [70]) Still, there is no certainty in this theory either. There were many persons by the names of Commodus, Trajanus, Frontinianus, such as are appearing in our text, who were contemporaries of Apicius.

With our mind at ease as regards the genuineness of our book we now may view it at a closer range.


Apicius contains technical terms that have been the subject of much speculation and discussion. Liquamen, laser, muria, garum, etc., belong to these. They will be found in our little dictionary. But we cannot refrain from discussing some at present to make intelligible the most essential part of the ancient text.

Take liquamen for instance. It may stand for broth, sauce, stock, gravy, drippings, even for court bouillon—in fact for any liquid appertaining to or derived from a certain dish or food material. Now, if Apicius prescribes liquamen for the preparation of a meat or a vegetable, it is by no means clear to the uninitiated what he has in mind. In fact, in each case the term liquamen is subject to the interpretation of the experienced practitioner. Others than he would at once be confronted with an unsurmountable difficulty. Scientists may not agree with us, but such is kitchen practice. Hence the many fruitless controversies at the expense of the original, at the disappointment of science.

Garum is another word, one upon which much contemptuous witticism and serious energy has been spent. Garum simply is a generic name for fish essences. True, garus is a certain and a distinct kind of Mediterranean fish, originally used in the manufacture of garum; but this product, in the course of time, has been altered, modified, adulterated,—in short, has been changed and the term has naturally been applied to all varieties and variations of fish essences, without distinction, and it has thus become a collective term, covering all varieties of fish sauces. Indeed, the corruption and degeneration of this term, garum, had so advanced at the time of Vinidarius in the fifth century as to lose even its association with any kind of fish. Terms like garatum (prepared with g.) have been derived from it. Prepared with the addition of wine it becomes {oe}nogarum,—wine sauce—and dishes prepared with such wine sauce receive the adjective of {oe}nogaratum, and so forth.

The original garum was no doubt akin to our modern anchovy sauce, at least the best quality of the ancient sauce. The principles of manufacture surely are alike. Garum, like our anchovy sauce, is the puree of a small fish, named garus, as yet unidentified. The fish, intestines and all, was spiced, pounded, fermented, salted, strained and bottled for future use. The finest garum was made of the livers of the fish only, exposed to the sun, fermented, somehow preserved. It was an expensive article in old Rome, famed for its medicinal properties. Its mode of manufacture has given rise to much criticism and scorn on the part of medieval and modern commentators and interpreters who could not comprehend the "perverse taste" of the ancients in placing any value on the "essence from putrified intestines of fish."

However, garum has been vindicated, confirmed, endorsed, reiterated, rediscovered, if you please, by modern science! What, pray, is the difference in principle between garum (the exact nature of which is unknown) and the oil of the liver of cod (or less expensive fish) exposed to the beneficial rays of ultraviolet light—artificial sunlight—to imbue the oil with an extra large and uniform dose of vitamin D? The ancients, it appears, knew "vitamin D" to exist. Maybe they had a different name for "vitamins," maybe none at all. The name does not matter. The thing which they knew, does. They knew the nutritive value of liver, proven by many formulae. Pollio, one of the vicious characters of antiquity, fed murenas (sea-eel) with slaves he threw into the piscina, the fish pond, and later enjoyed the liver of the fish.

Some "modern" preparations are astonishingly ancient, and vice versa. Our anchovy sauce is used freely to season fish, to mix with butter, to be made into solid anchovy or fish paste. There are sardine pastes, lobster pastes, fish forcemeats found in the larder of every good kitchen—preparations of Apician character. A real platter of hors d'oeuvres, an antipasto is not complete unless made according to certain Apician precepts.

Muria is salt water, brine, yet it may stand for a fluid in which fish or meat, fruits or vegetables have been pickled.

The difficulties of the translator of Apicius who takes him literally, are unconsciously but neatly demonstrated by the work of Danneil. Even he, seasoned practitioner, condemns garum, muria, asa f{oe}tida, because professors before him have done so, because he forgets that these very materials still form a vital part of some of his own sauces only in a different shape, form or under a different name. Danneil calls some Apician recipes "incredibly absurd," "fabulous," "exaggerated," but he thinks nothing of the serving of similar combinations in his own establishment every day in the year.

Danneil would take pride in serving a Veal Cutlet a la Holstein. (What have we learned of Apicius in the Northern countries?). The ancient Holsteiner was not satisfied unless his piece of veal was covered with a nice fat herring. That "barbarity" had to be modified by us moderns into a veal cutlet, turned in milk and flour, eggs and bread crumbs, fried, covered with fried eggs, garnished with anchovies or bits of herring, red beets, capers, and lemon in order to qualify for a restaurant favorite and "best seller." Apicius hardly has a dish more characteristic and more bewildering.

What of combinations of fish and meat?

De gustibus non est disputandum. It all goes into the same stomach. May it be a sturdy one, and let its owner beware. What of our turkey and oyster dressing? Of our broiled fish and bacon? Of our clam chowder, our divine Bouillabaisse? If the ingredients and component parts of such dishes were enumerated in the laconic and careless Apician style, if they were stated without explicit instructions and details (supposed to be known to any good practitioner) we would have recipes just as mysterious as any of the Apician formulae.

Danneil, like ever so many interpreters, plainly shared the traditional belief, the egregious errors of popular history. People still are under the spell of the fantastic and fanciful descriptions of Roman conviviality and gastronomic eccentricities. Indeed, we rather believe in the insanity of these descriptions than in the insane conduct of the average Roman gourmet. It is absurd of course to assume and to make the world believe that a Roman patrician made a meal of garum, laserpitium, and the like. They used these condiments judiciously; any other use thereof is physically impossible. They economized their spices which have caused so much comment, too. As a matter of fact, they used condiments niggardly and sparingly as is plainly described in some formulae, if only for the one good and sufficient reason that spices and condiments which often came from Asia and Africa were extremely expensive. This very reason, perhaps, caused much of the popular outcry against their use, which, by the way, is merely another form of political propaganda, in which, as we shall see, the mob guided by the rabble of politicians excelled.

We moderns are just as "extravagant" (if not more) in the use of sauces and condiments—Apician sauces, too! Our Worcestershire, catsup, chili, chutney, walnut catsup, A I, Harvey's, Punch, Soyer's, Escoffier's, Oscar's (every culinary coryphee endeavors to create one)—our mustards and condiments in their different forms, if not actually dating back to Apicius, are, at least lineal descendants from ancient prototypes.

To readers little experienced in kitchen practice such phrases (often repeated by Apicius) as, "crush pepper, lovage, marjoram," etc., etc., may appear stereotyped and monotonous. They have not survived in modern kitchen parlance, because the practice of using spices, flavors and aromas has changed. There are now in the market compounds, extracts, mixtures not used in the old days. Many modern spices come to us ready ground or mixed, or compounded ready for kitchen use. This has the disadvantage in that volatile properties deteriorate more rapidly and that the goods may be easily adulterated. The Bavarians, under Duke Albrecht, in 1553 prohibited the grinding of spices for that very reason! Ground spices are time and labor savers, however. Modern kitchen methods have put the old mortar practically out of existence, at the expense of quality of the finished product.


The enviable Apicius cared naught for either time or labor. He gave these two important factors in modern life not a single thought. His culinary procedures required a prodigious amount of labor and effort on the part of the cooks and their helpers. The labor item never worried any ancient employer. It was either very cheap or entirely free of charge.

The selfish gourmet (which gourmet is not selfish?) almost wonders whether the abolition of slavery was a well-advised measure in modern social and economic life. Few people appreciate the labor cost in excellent cookery and few have any conception of the cost of good food service today. Yet all demand both, when "dining out," at least. Who, on the other hand, but a brute would care to dine well, "taking it out of the hide of others?"

Hence we moderns with a craving for gourmandise but minus appropriations for skilled labor would do well to follow the example of Alexandre Dumas who cheerfully and successfully attended to his own cuisine. Despite an extensive fiction practice he found time to edit "Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine" and was not above writing mustard advertisements, either.


The appetite of the ancients was at times successfully curbed by sumptuary laws, cropping out at fairly regular intervals. These laws, usually given under the pretext of safeguarding the morals of the people and accompanied by similar euphonious phrases were, like modern prohibitions, vicious and virulent effusions of the predatory instinct in mankind. We cannot give a chronological list of them here, and are citing them merely to illustrate the difficulty confronting the prospective ancient host.

During the reign of Caesar and Augustus severe laws were passed, fixing the sums to be spent for public and private dinners and specifying the edibles to be consumed. These laws classified gastronomic functions with an ingenious eye for system, professing all the time to protect the public's morals and health; but they were primarily designed to replenish the ever-vanishing contents of the Imperial exchequer and to provide soft jobs for hordes of enforcers. The amounts allowed to be spent for various social functions were so ridiculously small in our own modern estimation that we may well wonder how a Roman host could have ever made a decent showing at a banquet. However, he and the cooks managed somehow. Imperial spies and informers were omnipresent. The market places were policed, the purchases by prospective hosts carefully noted, dealers selling supplies and cooks (the more skillful kind usually) hired for the occasion were bribed to reveal the "menu." Dining room windows had to be located conveniently to allow free inspection from the street of the dainties served; the passing Imperial food inspector did not like to intrude upon the sanctity of the host's home. The pitiable host of those days, his unenviable guests and the bewildered cooks, however, contrived and conspired somehow to get up a banquet that was a trifle better than a Chicago quick lunch.

How did they do it?

In the light of modern experience gained by modern governments dillydallying with sumptuary legislation that has been discarded as a bad job some two thousand years ago, the question seems superfluous.

Difficile est satyram non scribere! To make a long story short: The Roman host just broke the law, that's all. Indeed, those who made the laws were first to break them. The minions, appointed to uphold the law, were easily accounted for. Any food inspector too arduous in the pursuit of his duty was disposed of by dispatching him to the rear entrance of the festive hall, and was delivered to the tender care of the chief cook.

Such was the case during the times of Apicius. Indeed, the Roman idea of good cheer during earlier epochs was provincial enough. It was simply barbaric before the Greeks showed the Romans a thing or two in cookery. The methods of fattening fowl introduced from Greece was something unheard-of! It was outrageous, sacrilegious! Senators, orators and other self-appointed saviors of humanity thundered against the vile methods of tickling the human palate, deftly employing all the picturesque tam-tam and elan still the stock in trade of ever so many modern colleagues in any civilized parliament. The speeches, to be sure, passed into oblivion, the fat capons, however, stayed in the barnyards until they had acquired the saturation point of tender luscious calories to be enjoyed by those who could afford them. How the capon was "invented" is told in a note on the subject.

Many other so-called luxuries, sausage from Epirus, cherries from the Pontus, oysters from England, were greeted with a studied hostility by those who profited from the business of making laws and public opinion.

Evidently, the time and the place was not very propitious for gastronomic over-indulgence. Only when the ice was broken, when the disregard for law and order had become general through the continuous practice of contempt for an unpopular sumptuary law, when corruption had become wellnigh universal chiefly thanks to the examples set by the higher-ups, it was then that the torrent of human passion and folly ran riot, exceeding natural bounds, tearing everything with them, all that is beautiful and decent, thus swamping the great empire beyond the hopes for any recovery.


Most of the Apician directions are vague, hastily jotted down, carelessly edited. One of the chief reasons for the eternal misunderstandings! Often the author fails to state the quantities to be used. He has a mania for giving undue prominence to expensive spices and other (quite often irrelevant) ingredients. Plainly, Apicius was no writer, no editor. He was a cook. He took it for granted that spices be used within the bounds of reason, but he could not afford to forget them in his formulae.

Apicius surely pursues the correct culinary principle of incorporating the flavoring agents during the process of cooking, contrary to many moderns who, vigorously protesting against "highly seasoned" and "rich" food, and who, craving for "something plain" proceed to inundate perfectly good, plain roast or boiled dishes with a deluge of any of the afore-mentioned commercial "sauces" that have absolutely no relation to the dish and that have no mission other than to grant relief from the deadening monotony of "plain" food. Chicken or mutton, beef or venison, finnan haddie or brook trout, eggs or oysters thus "sauced," taste all alike—sauce! To use such ready-made sauces with dishes cooked a l'anglaise is logical, excusable, almost advisable. Even the most ascetic of men cannot resist the insidiousness of spicy delights, nor can he for any length of time endure the insipidity of plain food sans sauce. Hence the popularity of such sauces amongst people who do not observe the correct culinary principle of seasoning food judiciously, befitting its character, without spoiling but rather in enhancing its characteristics and in bringing out its flavor at the right time, namely during coction to give the kindred aromas a chance to blend well.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse