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Roman primal?

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  • Roman primal?

    We were having a discussion in my Italian class today about the Mediterranean diet. According to my teacher (who is actually Italian), in Roman times the diet consisted mainly of meat, fruit and vegetables, with grain playing a minor role. Sources of meat included oxen, goats, sheep and animals that could be hunted such as wild pigs, wild birds, fish, rabbits, etc. We didn't talk much about the types of fruit and vegetables that they ate, but she did mention that they ate bread mostly in the form of (for lack of a better word) tortillas and other unleavened types.

    I immediately thought primal when we were talking about this.

    Does anyone know anything about this, or how accurate this is? I haven't done any research on the subject, just thought I would share with y'all and see if anyone else had any information or insight.

  • #2
    mmmm. I'm not sure that this is quite right.

    I know that the roman legions ate grain. They needed a portable food source that they didn't have to worry too much about as they marched, and ate it as a porridge often. Conquoring Egypt was high on the list because it supplied them with wheat that they needed.

    Gladiators on the other hand were fed lots of meat. Meat, and garlic to make them extra strong, and vicious LOL.

    I'm pretty sure that your average roman citizen (or slave) ate a fair portion of porridges, and flat breads, since it was more storable than the same amount of meat to feed the same amount of people would have been. But I do think that they enjoyed eating a wide variety of foods animal, and otherwise when ever they got the chance. Figs, olives, almonds, apricots I've seen all of those mentioned.

    I do know that the romans were addicted to a fermented fish sauce that I think they called Garum. They used it kind of like we use ketchup here in the US. Only it was stinkier, like vietnamese fish sauce LOL.


    • #3
      The Sumtuariae Leges ('sumptuary laws') were designed to limit Roman extravagance, including the amount spent on a given meal, which directly impacted how much wealthy Romans could eat at their meals. By the Imperial period such laws were no longer in force. Regardless of sumptuary laws, poor Romans would eat mostly cereal grain, as porridge or bread, at all meals.

      For those Romans who could afford it, breakfast (jentaculum), eaten very early, would consist of salted bread, milk or wine, and perhaps dried fruit, eggs or cheese. It was not always eaten. The Roman lunch (cibus meridianus or prandium), a quick meal, eaten around noon could include salted bread or be more elaborate with fruit, salad, eggs, meat or fish, vegetable, and cheese.

      The Roman dinner (cena), the main meal of the day, would be accompanied by wine, usually well-watered. The Latin poet Horace ate a meal of onions, porridge, and pancake. An ordinary upper class dinner would include meat, vegetable, egg, and fruit. Comissatio was a final wine course at dinner's end.
      Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me."--Ferris Bueller, 1986
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      • #4
        I've heard that the slaves were fed grains and other foods were would consider bad because they kept the slaves happy, weaker and less likely to rebel.
        A steak a day keeps the doctor away


        • #5
          Originally posted by DarthFriendly View Post
          Gladiators on the other hand were fed lots of meat. Meat, and garlic to make them extra strong, and vicious LOL.
          Actually, the gladiators were also known as hordearii or "barley-men" because they were fed a grain-heavy, almost entirely vegetarian diet in order to fatten them up so they would be less likely to die from a surface wound. Isotopic analysis of gladiator bones seems to back this up.

          It's kind of a shame, because the mythology just isn't as attractive when you know it's actually a bunch of fat vegans slashing at one another.
          "To shed all the illusory rights & hesitations of history demands the economy of some legendary Stone Age--shamans not priests, bards not lords, hunters not police, gatherers of paleolithic laziness, gentle as blood, going naked for a sign or painted as birds, poised on the wave of explicit presence, the clockless nowever." --Hakim Bey, TAZ


          • #6
            I have a number of Roman recipes, most of which use grains in one form or another. One of my favorites that I'd like to try making one day, in spite of the grains, is a dish called "placenta." Placenta was a layered cheese and honey pie offered to Jupiter, sort of like an early lasagna, but more like a Greek pita. There was also a dish called "globula" which were sauted cheese balls made of goat cheese and spelt grits. "Frappe," a deep fried pastry, and "Focaccia" bread. There were herb breads, sweet breads, wine crescents.

            When I was in Pompeii we saw a number of grain mills and bakeries. Romans who lived in the cities didn't often eat at home, so there were a number of food stands, not too unlike our fast food restaurants. They could stop in, stand at the counter and grab a fast meal in between business.

            I do suppose it depends on what class one was. The Plebs were the lower class and likely ate more cheap grain, while the upper classes afforded more fresh foods and meats. I'd always been curious to try dormice- small rodents they often at as an appetizer. Farmers likely had more access to vegetables, milk and eggs, and probably meat also. Not too unlike our own culture.


            • #7
              The poor people ate mostly grains, and the others ate meat and less grains, just like in most historical societies.