Ancient Roman Appetizers: The word appetizer means a small portion of some food which is taken at the beginning of the meal to increase the appetite. They are a common part of a formal dinner in Western civilizations. The root of the tradition lies in ancient Rome and Greece.
Ancient Roman Appetizers
The Romans partook of three main meals in a day. They are broadly similar to the breakfast, lunch, and dinner of the modern world. However, the breakfast and the lunch were light meals. They could be taken anywhere and did not need any ceremony. However, all out culinary effort was made for the dinner or Cena. They were often lavish affairs and could last for hours.
The formal dinner began with the appetizers. These small portions of food were decorated and served on small individual plates. These were known collectively as Agustus.
Ancient Roman Desserts
The Roman Appetizers were so indispensable a part of a formal Roman dinner that a popular expression came to refer to the dinners as ‘from eggs to apples’. This refers to the fact that most Roman appetizers were based on eggs and the dessert tended to end with fruits.
The choice and variety of ancient Roman appetizers are huge. The recipes were complicated and tended to produce rich dishes. Each of this fricassee or casseroles which served as appetizers during the Roman era would be considered a full-fledged course by itself in modern dining. Eggs were one of the most important ingredients of ancient Roman appetizers. Several egg-based dishes were produced.
Exotic nuts and vegetables were often used to create appetizers. Other ingredients which were widely used include shellfish, mushrooms, olives, sausages etc. A Roman dinner would include a vast array of appetizers. Their number and variety increased under the Roman Empire where the super-rich insisted on lavish dinner parties.
Several kinds of Cheese
One typical such dinner would include one each of salad or vegetable appetizer, fish appetizer, meat appetizer and of course the egg appetizer. Mushroom based dishes, olives – whether whole or crushed, several kinds of cheese which were often flavored with various herbs were also seen as appetizers. Other ingredients which were used are small fish and birds, rabbit, pork, dormice etc. Truffles, salads, fruits picked with salts also appeared on the appetizer table.
The recipes of the above dishes are quite complex resulting in rich items of food. You may wonder that if the appetizers were so heavy, how they ever made room for the main course. Remember that a typical Roman dinner party lasted hours.
The seats were reclining and the guests rested between each course. They were even offered the opportunity of relieving themselves between the courses. So it is not very difficult to imagine such complicated dishes as appetizers in such a lavish surrounding.