Animal’s Daily News

Guess who's coming to dinner.
Guess who’s coming to dinner.

This is interesting for a history buff; it seems if you had sat down for dinner with a late-Republican era Roman family, most of the food may have been surprisingly familiar.  Excerpt:

Let’s pretend it is 56 B.C. and you have been fortunate enough to be invited to a party at the home of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a great social coup. Piso, after all, was Julius Caesar’s father-in-law and a consul of Rome.

What’s for dinner?

You need to prepare for pig. Archaeologists studying the eating habits of ancient Etruscans and Romans have found that pork was the staple of Italian cuisine before and during the Roman Empire. Both the poor and the rich ate pig as the meat of choice, although the rich, like Piso, got better cuts, ate meat more often and likely in larger quantities.

They had pork chops and a form of bacon. They even served sausages and prosciutto; in other words, a meal not unlike what you’d find in Rome today — or in South Philadelphia.

Fishing Trip BearIt would probably have been a more familiar dinner than one eaten in any of the royal courts of Europe 1500 years later.  The Romans had indoor plumbing, the washed their clothing, the wealthier Romans at least were scrupulous about bathing and sometimes made it a social event.

Most of those things fell out of fashion when the Roman Empire fell.  They didn’t call them the Dark Ages for nothing.

Then again, that dinner may have been an interesting place to talk some politics – assuming you speak the archaic Roman strain of Latin.  56 B.C. was towards the end of the Roman Republic, and your hosts’ nephew would be instrumental in the fall of the Republic and the beginning of the totalitarian Roman Empire – although it was Julius Caesar’s nephew Octavian that completed the transformation.  The Republic at the time was suffering from a shrinking currency, a lack of jobs for the common Roman citizens, and an increasing number of citizens on the dole.

Sound familiar?

But at least the food would have been decent.  Better than our earlier ancestors had to put up with.