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Roman Food

The Romans liked to eat food they could produce themselves.

Nearly all Roman villas in the countryside would have had their own farm land, looked after by slaves, for growing crops like: barley, oats, rye and wheat.

Wheat field 1

Most farms kept animals too, like: cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, hens and horses. Not only did these provide: food, wool or leather clothing, fertiliser and bone toools, but they could also be used for transport and to provide security.

Bees were kept to produce honey, which was used to sweeten food. Many fruits and vegetables were also grown, including some like: carrots, cabbages and peas which had been imported (brought to Britain) by the Romans.

Bienenwabe mit Eiern und Brut 5

Three meals would be eaten during the day:
  • breakfast in the morning would be a light snack, often just a cup of water and a piece of bread;
  • lunch at about midday would also be a light meal, usually consisting of some meat or fish followed by fruit;
  • the main meal of the day was cena (dinner), eaten late in the afternoon.
Poor families might not have had a kitchen so they often took food round to the baker, to cook in his oven. Many people bought takeaways, such as sausages or fried fish, from food-shops.

Pompei - House of Julia Felix - 2 - MAN

Wealthy families, meanwhile, would eat their dinner reclining on couches in the triclinium (dining room). The food was cut up by a slave before being served and diners would eat it with their fingers or a spoon. The meal was not hurried as this was a time to talk and relax. If guests were invited, they would have been entertained with: music, singing, dancing and poetry readings.

Triclinium - Archäologische Staatssammlung München

A lot of food would be seasoned with the Romans' favourite sauce, called garum. It was made from fish innards, left for months to rot in the sun.

Wine produced from a local vineyard would be drunk during meals.

Roman Museum 049