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Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens Paperback – July, 2000
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Top Customer Reviews
Numerous recipes and some good comments makes the everyday cooking in ancient Rome, and it's provinces, come back to life.
All in all I would recommend picking up the book to experiment with some side dishes here and there and to read the historical discourse on culinary techniques but don't try to plan a week of meals out of the book or else you may find yourself frustrated in the process.
He has some errors in the book. In one place he says that hydromel is honey and water. This is true. Then he says that oxymel is vinegar and water. This is not true. Oxymel is honey and vinegar, or more likely in context was soured honey and water. I am not a scholar of Latin or Greek, yet I know that "hydro" refers to water. I feel that the author should have be alerted to the possibility that "mel" was the honey part of the word, and looked for some other meaning for oxymel than the one at which he arrived.
Another error was in his discussion of garum. He states that the price limiting legislation that was enacted in Rome at one point does not specify a price for garum. He is incorrect. The price given for second-rate garum, called liquamin at that point in time, was the same per pint as the price this author states for meat, poultry, and fresh fish. While that was twice the price per pint of salt, fermented fish sauce has much more culinary value than plain salt, because of the umami content. It might even be worth as much as meat, because one pint of fermented fish sauce can make so much more grain and vegetables palatable than a single pound of meat. At any rate, the coastal villages made their own fish sauce from trash fish and offal, and Cato fed the residue of the process, called allec, to his slaves, so it was not the elite rarity this author wishes us to believe.
So in my opinion, the book is small, the recipes boring, and the facts not accurate. I myself like boiled barley, but I didn't need to buy a recipe book to learn that the ancient Romans boiled theirs, too. I put my boiled barley into spicy sauce, anyway. With garlic, and sometimes fish sauce. I gave it three stars, though, for the fact that the sources were all non-Apicius and that, as the author states up front, is unusual in a book on ancient Roman cooking.
Problem: Many of the ingredients are proving very hard to find! He still has not been able to cook much from it. He found some substitutions for ingredients online and also some seeds to buy to grow his own of a few ingredients. A lot of work but if someone is a true history buff and willing to do it - this book is great.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you like to read about Old Rome, it's a great book.
It's a little more modernised than the other but it holds true to the concept.Read more