AROUND THE TABLE OF THE ROMANS: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome

Patrick Faas, Author, Sean Whiteside, Translator , trans. from the Dutch by Shaun Whiteside. Palgrave $29.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-23958-9

Faas, a Dutch food historian and chef, opens with the caveats that this is "no historical treatise" and that the more than 150 recipes will be difficult to prepare in a modern kitchen. Excuses aside, this is a capable study of the fascinating ancient Roman culture and the foods that graced its tables. A culinary history leads up to and through the Empire, when imported foods were all the rage and forks were unheard of. (Slaves were ordered to grow long hair so that their masters could wipe their hands on it.) Granted that these recipes are unlikely to be usable, as Faas points out, it's still unfortunate that such recipes as Broad Beans with Meatballs leave out certain details (such as, the type of pan used and the cooking time). Although Faas is most enthusiastic about foods that won't cause the modern palate to salivate—e.g., Stuffed Mouse and Dolphin Balls as well as "the meat of nursing puppies"—of greatest interest here are the comparisons between ancient Roman foods and modern Italian cooking. A dish of Fried Courgettes marinated in vinegar would not be out-of-place on today's antipasto table, and the Lupin beans that were once fed to livestock are now brined and eaten as a snack. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
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