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Mar 6, 2011 04:16 PM

Ancient Recipes

While looking for news ideas on what to do with boring green beans, and boring turnips, I recently stumbled across several websites that discuss ancient Roman recipes that incorporate them.
For example:

I'd love to explore recipes from other ancient cultures -- Persian, Indian, Chinese, Mayan, Egyptian, Celtic, etc etc

Please share any books, articles, or, most especially, websites focusing on ancient recipes here.

Or your favorite recipes themselves, if they are in the public domain.

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  1. This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but Harold McGee's book "On Food and Cooking" includes tons of sidebars describing ancient and medieval preparation. Interesting little facts, although not really the main purpose of the book.

    3 Replies
    1. re: caseyjo

      On the contrary, sounds like an excellent suggestion.
      Would you believe there isn't even a single copy in the whole Miami-Dade County Public library system?
      Maybe I can get them to buy one. Shouldn't every library have a copy?

      1. re: racer x

        Yes, but everyone interested in food should have a copy in his or her personal library!

        1. re: roxlet

          Agreed! I refer to my copy all the time, usually for answers to questions like "why did my souffle do that" and "how is this type of cheese made." It's also a great read cover to cover, and it contains so much information that you'll probably read it more than once.

    2. "To The King's Taste: Richard II's Book of Feasts and Recipes, Adapted for Modern Cooking" by Lorna J Sass, Metropolitan Museum of Art,. 1975. Just now I checked and has it for as little as $5.99. Sample recipe: Fysshe in Gele.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Querencia

        Sounds very interesting. I see amazon also has "To The Queen's Taste" (Elizabethan).
        And there are a even number of books on ancient Egyptian food.

        1. re: racer x

          "To the Queen's Taste" includes a fantastic recipe for a chicken stew with orange that I make on a regular basis.

          (I think it's also the source of a recipe for a spinach-and-strawberry tart I made once. Back in the day, spinach was new and exotic, and people didn't know you weren't supposed to make sweets with it...)


        Kind of interesting that the ancient Romans used asafoetida and fish sauce.

        8 Replies
        1. re: sushigirlie

          I wholeheartedly agree about the fish sauce. I had some green beans and turnips and was wondering if I could find recipes that included fish sauce -- a web search turned up ancient Roman recipes! Not what I was expecting!

          1. re: racer x

            Garum and Cato's cabbage cure. Ah memories of Latin class!

          2. This link provides a recipe for making garum:


            It cites this book for the recipe--A Taste of Ancient Rome:


            1. re: sushigirlie

              Ever since I watched the episode of NOVA when they make their own garum, I've wanted to try it, too. Sadly, I don't have the space to ferment layers of sardines, salt, and herbs. The following link has the ancient roman recipe used for Garum Fish Sauce - plus, ancient recipes for Mulsum (honeyed wine), Lucanian Sausages, Boiled Eggs in Pine Nut Sauce, Seasoned Mussels, Pear Patina, Libum (sweet cheesecake)


            2. Besides current Asian fish sauce, we might also consider Worcestershire sauce as a point of reference (which is also made from fermented anchovies, salt & herbs, & a common ingredient in cooking).

              1. re: benbenberi

                I've had the good fortune of tasting garum a few times now at Locanda in San Francisco. It's not at all as concentrated as worcestershire sauce or as fishy/fermented tasting as many fish sauces from Asia. It's definitely along the lines of the two but maybe milder or softer on the nose and palate.

              2. re: sushigirlie

                Titus Pullo would NEVER eat anything with fish sauce!

              3. the slow food "ark of taste" is really fun and fascinating--it lists very old traditional foodstuffs (endangered, sadly), but also has lots of recipes for very old foods.


                there's also a slowfoodusa web site which might have ancient new world recipes, but i actually havent' looked at it. ditto the slow food uk site.

                1. I recommend The Roman Cookery Of Apicius - Translated and Adapted for the Modern Kitchen by John Edwards. Here's the amazon link, though it seems to be out of print now. Looking further on amazon, there seem to be a number of people who have translated the Roman chef Apicius, some are quite reasonably priced.

                  I got this book when I was in high school (I was into both food and classics) and haven't looked at it in years! I never cooked much from it - at the time I got it, I was more interested in the obscure or outrageous things the Romans ate. (Dormice sprinkled with honey and poppy seeds, anyone?) I think I may start making some of the tastier-looking recipes. :)

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: looz

                    It's still possible to try edible dormice, though I haven't had the opportunity. It's quite popular amongst the Slovenians and in other parts of eastern Europe still; both the trapping and consumption of it are lauded as part of their cultural heritage. I have heard, from the one person I know who's tried it, that it's actually quite good. I would imagine it's a bit like South American cavy.

                    1. re: KaelusApicius

                      Last week on Cooking Channel, 'Supersizers go ... Roman' (a British program) sampled dormice, or something approximating that.


                      1. re: paulj

                        I could never eat those. They're just toooo cute.
                        (And there's no meat on the ones she used for the show! I don't even like chicken wings!)

                    2. re: looz

                      There is a version -- possibly from a different translator -- available free from Project Gutenberg. The html version can be downloaded here:

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I have a print copy of that - a 1977 reissue of the original 1936 work, which claims to be the first English translation of Apicius, done by Joseph Dommers Vehling. It's still available from Amazon:

                        1. re: BobB

                          Wow! Ninety nine bucks for a new hard cover version? I like Gutenberg's prices better. Besides, if I spill sometthing on the Gutenberg pages, I only have to clean my monitor screen. Crafty! '-)

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Mine is the paperback edition, only $11 (though I didn't buy it, it was a present some years ago.)