Monday, February 03, 2020


Grabbing a bite to eat in the days of the Roman Empire wasn’t all that different from sitting in an American diner, if the dishes described in a Roman cookbook are anything to go by. Milkshakes and waffles may not have been on the menu just yet, but one delicacy called isicia omentata bears a strong resemblance to a staple of modern cuisine – the hamburger.

The recipe appears in a book called Apicius, which contains 10 separate volumes relating to different categories of food, such as meat, seafood, birds, and vegetables. Thought to have been written in the 4th or 5th century, Apicius contains recipes dating all the way back to the 1st century, mostly using ingredients that would have been available to the wealthier classes living in and around Rome.

Like an extravagant burger, isicia omentata is essentially a minced meat patty that is flavored with pine nuts, peppercorns, and a fish-based sauce called garum, and accompanied by a bread roll that has been pre-soaked in white wine.

It’s not the sort of thing that would have been available to the lower classes, although Roman laborers did used to eat at fast food joints called thermopolia, which were kiosks that served ready-to-eat dishes to workers on their lunch break.


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