Armed with the 2,000-year-old recipe book Apicius and the passions of culinary historians Andrew Dalby and chef Sally Grainger, The Getty Villa prepared a menu that mirrored an ancient Roman banquet last night. The museum took Malibu to a time and place where prized spices were not purchased at Penzy's, but laboriously shipped from remote locations halfway around the world; when sugar was prescribed in small amounts by doctors, cinnamon was nearly impossible to locate and worth its weight in gold, and it was common practice to stuff a boar with the meat of at least five other animals and feast on whole porpoises. While Roman commoners enjoyed a booming street food scene, the society's privileged population rallied for rich banquets. Few utilized and benefited from these celebrations quite like Julius Caesar, who was honored as much for his generous, debt-incurring hospitality as he was for sobriety and moderation in an age of gluttony. Come with us as we take a look at the foods of ancient Rome in a slideshow exploration of The Getty's Villa's At The Roman Table.
The Getty Villa's Herb Garden
The Scene of Last Night's Roman Banquet
Culinary Historian Andrew Dalby
Detailed how the Romans sourced from almost every part of their massive empire for a banquet, with nuts coming from Turkey, spices from India, and seafood from the Greek isles. Roman generals were oftentimes great farmers as well, who brought numerous species of plants back to Italy to be nurtured.
The Romans were also huge proponents of eating locally and could discourse at length on which nearby farms and regions raised the best meats and produce.
Crudites with sweet-and-sour egg and leek sauce
In addition to far-flung spices, central to cuisine in Roman times was a fish sauce known as liquamen, which acted as a flavor enhancer and was found in just about every dish served last night.
Roman banquets were all about sensual pleasures and their appetite for wine is legendary. Romans planted grapevines throughout Europe, but at the height of their civilization, wines from Italy, Greece, and Sicily were among the most prized.
Calf's Kidney Stuffed with coriander, fennel seeds, and pine nuts and Chicken Meatballs with dill and a rice-infused sauce.
In the first century A.D., it was fashionable in Roman society to prepare "disguised" foods, such as meats stuffed with other meats and delicacies as a surprise.
Oysters with Oenogarum
The oysters go terrifically with this definitive Roman mixture of sweet wine and fish sauce.
A traditional white spelt loaf, with crossed markings similar to those found on carbonized loafs on Mount Vesuvius.
Sea Bass Fillets in Green Herb Sauce
Fennel, coriander, mint, rue, lovage, honey, oil and black pepper would mostly all have to be brought to Rome through laborious shipping methods to make a dish such as this.
Zucchini Stuffed with Calf's Sweetbreads
Dressed with oenogarum
Whole Stuffed Roasted Pig
The piece de resistance, this whole pig was stuffed with chicken, pork, pheasant, duck, lucanica sausage, cabbage, leeks, dates, celery, eggs, pine nuts, and breadcrumbs, spiced with cumin, oregano, thyme, parsley, pepper, and fish sauce.
With coriander and honey-vinegar dressing. As this salad looked so contemporary, we questioned Dalby as to its authenticity. He said this would absolutely be a typical Roman salad served during the Empire's reign. However, he did squash the notion of intentional purging after a meal as a base anomaly, more than a common practice.
With almonds, walnuts, hazlenuts, poppy seeds, sesame, honey, and black pepper, none of which could be found at Trader Joe's at that time.
Honey-Infused Cake with Apricot Patina
Full Moon over The Getty Villa
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