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The cult of food

(The Roman cuisine)



The Roman people were very good, creating a great Empire, but the greatness of the people, is measured by its cuisine too, and the cuisine in Rom…… is a cult !!

In the ancient Rom the food arrived by all the empire, the most used condiment  in the Roman world was the “garum” (a liquid sauce of entrails of fish), it was contained into special amphora, and it was largely marketed in the Mediterranean area, Syria and in Arabia, while from India came all the spices.

All the products for the Roman market arrived at Ostia. Ostia was a city of commerce and trade, frequented by many travelers, who could find a lodging into the “cauponae” (small bed-sitters). It was noticed from the wrecks found, the presence of ships able to contain more than 10.000 amphora, during the Roman time, they weighed about 450/500 tons, or those one for the corn, about 1200 tons weigh, 53 meters long, 14 meters large  and about 13 meters high, from the keel to the deck.

It was calculated that in Rom under the empire of August Roma, about 750.000 people could receive the wheat offered by the authorities, with the addition of that eaten by the upper class. In Rome about 270.000 tons of corn came yearly.

There were special storehouses  such as the “doliari”, for the preservation of oil and  wine,  olive oil was very widespread, it was imported above all from “Baetica” (actual Andalusia) and from North Africa. These places were used to guarantee  the preservation and freshness of the products. The selling of retail goods, always took place in special markets. In the imperial and Republican Rome people ate well, of course, only for those who could do it. Food was different according to the social classes. The slaves for exemple, ate the same kind of food all the year around: corn, onions, turnips and other roots, legumes and vegetables, but they can drink also a glass of wine daily, even if it was of poor quality. The rich  Roman people have 3 lunches: large breakfast (ientaculum), at 8- 9 in the morning ,focaccia (flat bread), bread seasoned with salt and whine, honey and milk, with dry fruits, cheese and meat but often, it was made by the leftovers of the previous day. The second lunch (prandium) took place before midday and it was light, a bowl of  legumes, olives, figs,  pickled anchovies, and cheeses of sheep or of goat, skewers of meat or grilled fish . But the most important meal was dinner which took place, at 4 in the afternoon, and it could last 6-7 hours, it included  a starter "gustus", and  6 dishes.

The dishes included meat or fish; lobsters, oysters, morays, chicken, hare, veal or pork, meat of birds, game, wild boars, fallow deer, deer and roe deer, there are strange dishes too: the feet of the camel or the flamingos. On the table we always  find and found the wine, in the past men weren’t allowed to drink it before being 30 years old and women weren’t allowed to drink it. There was a test, known as "ius osculi" (right of the kiss): the husband had the right to kiss his wife on the mouth, to  see if she had observed the abstinence. It was a different wine in comparison to the actual wine,  sometimes it had been preserved for 15 years, and older, more expensive was. It could contain honey or pepper, while the most famous drink for poor people, was beer.

It was surprising the dinner too : in a particular room, the "triclinium" (a Greek word that means  "three-place bed"), they had dinner  lying down, with the left  elbow placed on the  pillow, the plate held in their left hand while they ate with the right hand. Among the people the cult of food was widespread too, there were places like inns called “enopolium” , or the “thermopolium” where  food  and hot drinks were served, preserved at  room temperature in great bowls of baked clay, set into the bench,  and the “taberne” a kind of restaurant-“trattoria”. The inns were refreshment, passage and commerce  places, in the markets and they became meeting places, for social relationships. Some inns had bedrooms for prostitution too. 

Today we find many inns in Rome, the food  globalization, which invades cities,  hasn’t distracted the Roman people, who still prefer old traditions, such as the “ Fraschette dei Castelli Romani “, which offer  traditional food tastes ( sausages, roasted pig and cheese ), and where it’s a pleasure to stop under the bowers , during the hot summer evenings, with a glass of fresh wine and with the Ponentino, which caresses you (the ponentino is a light western wind ). Roma people like eating,  in “ignoranti” places, an adjective which identifies a kind of typical place (trattoria or inn), which offers the local cuisine ( good quality and quantity), and where the relationship with the customer is based, on the commerce and kindness, friendship too, and where it’s not important the dishes or furniture , but the sociability, together with the good cuisine. Sometimes the Roman people eat in these places to talk to the inner, to speak about oneself,  to sing or simply for a night of enjoyment, with the mood in their pockets, eating a  good dish of pasta and a good  glass of wine.

The actual Roman cuisine, developed in the Middle Ages, was very different than  that of the ancient Rome, and it reflects much more the relationships with the surroundings, from which it absorbed ingredients, and elaborated  many gastronomical specialties. The peculiarity of the Roman cuisine is its  genuineness, out of fashion, preserving its naturalness and genuineness of a popular  cuisine, and with gastronomical multi-ethnic  richness, shown already in the past. The actual Roman cuisine is mainly based on the fifth fourth, that is the surplus of the animal (cow or goat), that is tripe, kidneys, heart, liver, spleen, brain, tongue, tail, and lungs.

Among the most common dishes, the “Gnocchi alla Romana” with the  semolina, seasoned with butter and parmigiano cheese and then  baked. A common dish is “Bucatini Cacio e Pepe” (cheese and pepper), and the “Spaghetti alla Carrettiera”, so called because in the past they were the preferred dish of the “carrettieri” (the people who took wine to Rome from the castles). They are spaghetti seasoned with a sauce of dry mushrooms, tomato, garlic, parsley and tuna. The “Spaghetti alla Carbonara”, substantial food, onions and herbs fried in oil and the pork cut  and cooked with oil and garlic. Then  you prepare a cream of eggs, parmigiano cheese and pepper, in which you pour the spaghetti cooked, and then you cover them con other parmigiano cheese and sauce of the pork.  The “Bucatini all’Amatriciana” are very appreciated, with sauce of pork or the simple,  “Spaghetti Ajo, Ojo e Peperoncino” (garlic, oil and chili).

The “Spaghetti alla Grigia”, seasoned with meat and chili and with a  dusting of grated pecorino cheese, the soup of “Pasta e Broccoli”, another famous soup is the “Pancotto”, with stale bread , a dish of the southern cuisine. The “Rigatoni alla Pajata”, a sauce made with the kidneys of animals (veal), or the “Pajata”  eaten after grilled.

Not many used are the fish dishes, in the past  the eels coming from the  Tiber were very,  widespread, but today they are disappeared because of pollution. They eat the “Gamberoni”(lobsters) , which are fried and seasoned with light wine and lemon after  they had been shelled. The “Sogliole Gratinate”(soles au gratin) , in fillets, marinated for a few hours in a container with oil, lemon juice,  minced garlic and grilled, very good the “Calamari Ripieni” (stuffed squids)  too.

The most eaten fish in Rome is the  “Baccalà”, the cod of  the Northern Europe , it is salted sale and cooked in many ways, fried, the famous  “Filetti di Baccalà” (fillets of cod). Among the side dishes the “Puntarelle”, salad served with anchovies, the “Cicoria Ripassata” (chicory) very appreciated by the Roman people, before boiled and then cooked  in a pan with garlic, oil and chili, or  the simple  but very good  “Ruchetta” , seasoned with oil and salt, and finally, the “Misticanza” , typical Roman salad, country  herbs . The artichokes, which are prepared in many ways, the most famous have Hebrew origins, the “Carciofi alla Giudìa”, are artichokes, which are fried in oil, or the “Carciofi alla Romana”, cooked and stuffed with mint , garlic, salt, pepper and oil, or sliced cooked.

The Roman people use  the peas and beans, peas with cuttlefish, or with jam, the chick peas, with rosemary, and they are served as a side dish, or used for the pasta (“Pasta e Ceci” and "Pasta e Fagioli"), and the cauliflowers, with garlic.

The meat dishes: the “Coda alla Vaccinara”, with tomato and celery, or the “Saltimbocca alla Romana” (roulade of meat),   very particular is the  “Garofolato” of beef, a roast of beef with pieces of lard, cloves and garlic, baked for two hours with onion and then put in  a pan with oil, butter, garlic and tomato.

The kidney with tomato, cooked with a sauce of onions, tomatoes, parsley, light wine and pepper. Very delicious is the “Pollo alla Romana” (chicken) too, that is first browned with fried butter, ham, garlic and marjoram, and then sprinkled with light wine and finally cooked with tomatoes and peppers, the tomatoes appreciated filled with rice too. The most appreciated meat is the “Agnello alla Scottadito” (lamb) (cutlets and pieces of lamb cooked with the bone). The name comes from the use of eating it with the hands, burning one’s fingers. Much appreciated is also the “Coratella di Abbacchio”, a mix of kidneys, liver and lungs, generally cooked in a pan  with artichokes or onions.

There are many ways to use the “mozzarella” (cheese of cow) : with pumpkin flowers and ricotta (cottage cheese), or it is used in the ravioli, in many other recipes, both to season the pasta and to make cakes. Very appreciated by the Roman people are the snails,  which are shelled, boiled and put in a pan, where there is tomato sauce ,  garlic, anchovies and chili, cooked with mint,  in this sauce for an hour. Among the  dessert, besides the  “focacce” and sweet pizzas,  very good is the “pudding with Ricotta cheese” (flavored with lemon, cinnamon, rum, orange rind, citron and candied fruits), and the  “Crostata di Ricotta” (Ricotta cheese tart), the “Fragole in Aceto” (strawberries with vinegar), the tozzetti, the pangiallo, and the mostaccioli (sweets with wheat, sugar, dry figs, candied fruits et grapes).

In Rome we find the good cuisine, as quantity and quality, for all the tastes, ethnical tastes too. In Rome  there is one of the best  cuisines in Italy, because the  Roman people are demanding  in eating and in evaluating  the kindness of the inner, the roman saying is always the same “a noi ce piace de magnà e beve…. E nun ce piace da lavorà!!“ (we like eating and drinking… and we don’t like working!!).



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