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Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome Paperback – Apr 1 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226233472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226233475
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #146,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"There are many misconceptions about the food of ancient Rome that Faas sets out to correct. The result is half cookbook, half history book and is entirely fascinating to both chef and antiquarian alike. . . . . To read Mr. Faas book is a pleasure, to put it to use requires a certain spirit. Many of the recipes he includes in the book are accessible to the adventurous cook and will definitely reward a curious mind and palate."
(David Johnson Washington Times)

"The author has chosen a representative cross-section of ancient recipes and has provided adaptations and background material that will render the volume quite used friendly, especially for students who wish to try their hand at ancient cuiosine."
(John F. Donahue Bryn Mawr Classical Review)

"A delightful look at Roman culinary history, customs and recipes. It should make for a good library addition for anyone who is interested in recreating traditional recipes, as well as a nice introduction for those who are simply wanting to learn more about ancient Roman culinary history."
(The Cauldron)

About the Author

Patrick Faas writes a food column in the national Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. Shaun Whiteside has translated many books from French, German, Italian, and Dutch, including works by Freud and Nietzsche.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars 5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a neat book July 25 2010
By Evan the Dweezil - Published on
Format: Paperback
Faas' combination of exploring Roman culture via food and dining ritual is fascinating in its own right. Once the recipes are added, Around the Roman Table becomes a fantastic way to participate in history rather than passively attempt to absorb it.

I would have liked more illustrations or possibly photos of how the recipes turned out with Faas' attempts at making them. Other than that, this was a fun and interesting book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Italy has always been about the food Feb. 20 2014
By Paul Vitols - Published on
Format: Paperback
An entertaining and wide-ranging look at ancient Roman cuisine.

When I decided I needed to know more about food and eating in the ancient world of my own work in progress, I went overboard and ordered three different books on it. When they arrived I had to choose which one to start with. Looking them over, I thought that Patrick Faas’s book would provide the best introduction. Now, although I haven’t read the other two books yet, I feel sure that I chose right.

The other books are primarily cookbooks, and Faas’s book is also that, with plenty of recipes drawn from ancient authors, notably Apicius, who wrote “the only gastronomic cookery book handed down to us from classical antiquity.” But it’s also much more than that. Faas sets the scene by taking us through all the things that surrounded the dishes themselves, starting with a “culinary history” of Rome that looks at the agricultural basis of Roman society and the various influences that affected it, such as Africa and Greece, and other factors such as feast days, philosophy, and sumptuary laws. He moves on to a study of “the meal,” with chapters on table manners, the courses of a meal, the menu, and “the carousal” or drinking party that usually followed a dinner party. The author goes on to discuss Roman wine and other drinks, the Roman cook, and his condiments. Only then, in Part Two of the book, 175 pages in, does Faas start presenting recipes for actual dishes.

I was captivated by so much of what I found in this book. I knew that Romans reclined to eat their dinners, but how exactly did they arrange themselves around the table, and who reclined next to whom? The answers are here, along with illustrations. Did Romans really gorge themselves and then vomit up their food to eat more? (Not often, according to Faas; after drinking, though—that’s another matter.) What kinds of dishes and utensils did they eat with? What kinds of pots and pans did they cook with? All here, and illustrated.

The recipes section is broken down interestingly into four parts named after the four elements, presenting dishes drawn from the land (cereal and vegetables), from the fire (cooked meat), from the air (birds), and from the water (fish). I’ve read some authors who claim that the typical Roman diet was monotonous and frugal, but the great wealth of ingredients, flavors, and techniques presented here seem to give that notion the lie. The Romans liked strongly flavored, highly seasoned foods. But they also liked fresh vegetables, and Roman gentlemen took pride in their skill at growing them—much like modern Italians that I’ve known in the Vancouver area! And Roman women did not cook. If a slave was not cooking, then the head of the household would attend to it himself; even emperors would practice cuisine and personally see to the feeding of their family and guests.

Faas does not simply give recipes; the various dishes offer opportunities to explain various facts, attitudes, and peculiarities in the Romans’ approach to food. The section on vegetable dishes starts with a discussion of the Roman garden, including its required statue of Priapus, the phallic god of gardens.

Each recipe is presented first as the original Latin text followed by its English translation, then a more detailed discussion intended to make the recipe doable for the modern cook. For hard-to-get ingredients he suggests good modern alternatives. The ubiquitous garum or fermented fish sauce, for example, can be replaced with soy sauce or anchovy paste. The equally ubiquitous herb lovage can be replaced with parsley or celery root.

It seems that Faas has made all these dishes himself, even the most exotic, such as roast flamingo or brain pate or sow’s udders. He notes when the food is likely to be less palatable for the modern diner, but also how often the Roman dish is very good as is.

I have not been bold enough myself to try making any of the dishes; that was not my aim in reading the book. But Faas’s enthusiasm and depth of knowledge have got me interested in trying some. For cuisine makes its own strong, definite statement about a culture, and this book gives a real flavor of ancient Rome.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you wanted to know about Roman cooking, look here Oct. 16 2008
By D. Hancock - Published on
Format: Paperback
Pretty awesome book... I must say. If you wanted to know about Roman cooking this is the book for you. It talks about all kinds of aspects of life and entertainment in Rome as well. Some ingredients don't translate well... Dolphin? Whats a good replacement for that? Good book though.
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to the Ancient Roman culinary tradition. Dec 30 2014
By Rebecca Hatcher - Published on
Format: Paperback
An excellent introduction to the Ancient Roman culinary tradition. It begins with an introduction to Roman dining customs, and covers ingredients and beverages before moving on to recipes. An invaluable resource!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read my book review! Try a few recipes. Nov. 25 2014
By Carol Stigger - Published on
Format: Paperback