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First Grade Finale: The Roman Feast

June 16, 2008

I always had it in the back of my mind that we would do some big end of the school year party or something, but my house is in need of some serious help (I still need to figure out how to homeschool and keep the house more presentable) and I didn’t feel like pulling out all the old projects, notebooks, artwork, etc. to display for an open house.  But about a week ago, I noticed I had written down “have a Roman feast” on my long list of projects to accomplish when studying Rome and thought why not, that would be kind of fun.  I relied on my usual search-the-internet method for ideas and came up with, frankly, not very much.  There were just a few ideas in the Activity Guide and I just couldn’t get excited about anything.  Finally on Thursday, I decided to check the library catalog, and found several books on ancient Roman cookery.  Of course, I couldn’t get to the library until late Friday afternoon (it was kind of a busy week) so we pulled together our Roman feast in a little under 24 hours.  Grandma and Poppa were invited and came, and C invited a friend from church to come, which luckily somebody informed me of at the last minute.

We found out that we already eat as the poorer Romans did when we have our whole-wheat cereal in the mornings, but for a feast we wanted to be a little more upscale. The most fascinating cookbook was The Roman Cookery Book, a compilation of recipes from Apicius.  This edition included both Latin recipes and the English translations.  A and I had a fabulous time reading through it.  The most interesting recipes were the exotic ones we could not possibly have recreated such as:

–Squid patties (C lobbied for this though, he has a thing for squid lately),

–Sauce for boiled ostrich, as well as recipes for crane, duck, turtle-dove, peacock, and flamingo–“Pluck the flamingo, wash, truss, and put it in a saucepan; add water, dill, and a little vinegar.  Half-way through the cooking make a bouquet of leek and coriander and let it cook. . . the same recipe can be used for parrot.”

–Wombs from sterile sows–“Serve with Cyrenaican silphium or asafoetida, blended with vinegar and liquamen.”

–“Grilled womb.  Roll in bran, and afterwards soak in brine, then cook.”

–Stuffed sow’s udder–“Stuffed Udder.  Pound pepper, caraway, and salted sea-urchin.  Stuff the udder, sew up, and thus cook.  You eat it with allec and mustard.”

Sounds so appetizing, doesn’t it?  Then there’s my personal favorite:

“Snails fed on milk.  Take the snails, clean with a sponge, remove the membrane so that they may come out (of their shells).  Put in a vessel (with the snails) milk and salt for one day, for the following days add only milk, and clean away the excrements every hour.  When the snails are fattened to the point that they cannot get back into their shells fry them in oil.  Serve with oenogarum.”

And let us not forget stuffed dormice, drizzled with honey.

I haven’t had that much fun with a book in weeks.  A Taste of Ancient Rome was a much more practical book in that it included measurements lacking in the original as well as modern-day substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients and much historical information about food and feasting in the Roman Empire.  We had trouble finding a main dish however, as so many recipes called for garum (fermented fish sauce) which we had neither the time nor inclination to make. 

We finally found a recipe for roasted meat with herbs that sounded doable.  It called for olive oil and garum (we used grape juice instead) along with parsley, oregano, mint, ginger, bay, celery seeds, pepper, and freshly pressed garlic cloves.  It turned out pretty good and we did pork slices roasted and chicken slices grilled.  I also found a recipe for ham baked in a pastry.  We had ham already cooked and I cheated and used my mother’s pie crust instead of the Roman recipe as I already had to make coconut cream pie for Father’s Day at church.  Everything else was simple finger foods taken from suggestions in the cookbooks, although I had intended to make a cheese frittata for dessert before I ran out of milk (and time.)


The guests arrived, dressed in togas.  We were lucky to have an emperor in attendance:

GUSTATIO (Appetizers)

Bread, hard-boiled eggs, almonds, cheese, olives, and salad


Roasted pork, grilled chicken, ham in pastry, grilled mushrooms, and cucumbers

(I almost forgot to take a picture before we ate it all.)


Grapes, plums, and apples

And as fresh figs are not plentiful in Utah, we had fig newtons as well. 🙂

And of course we drank grape juice.

The boys thought it was great to eat while lounging.

I guess our feast was so sumptuous that one senator actually became quite sleepy!


We had a great time.  DH has requested that we eat like this more often.  And we’re already talking about a Renaissance feast next year.  Maybe we’ll get more ambitious and invite more friends over.  Maybe we’ll plan it more than a day in advance.  I’m sure the food, not to mention the costumes, will be a little more involved! 🙂

9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2008 7:29 am

    What a fabulous way to end Rome! I was cracking up while reading those recipes….ostrich, milk fed snails, etc. How funny!

    The pictures are great, and it looks like you had a lot of fun.

  2. June 17, 2008 7:59 am

    Well, I guess they made use of every part of an animal didn’t they? YUCK!

    What a terrific ending to a school year. They look so cute in their costumes!

  3. June 17, 2008 10:51 am


    I love that you even ate reclining. And the food looks very yummy.

  4. June 17, 2008 9:54 pm

    What a way to end the school year and to end a study on Rome. The food does look good but those recipes… wow… they turn my stomach just reading them. The texture alone of most of those things would make me gag but to each their own.

    Everyone looks like they had a great time.

  5. June 18, 2008 1:45 pm

    I love reading about what kinds of foods people used to eat, it is so fun.

    That sounds awesome! We have done similar things, but never that fancy.

  6. June 18, 2008 3:18 pm

    what a great idea. i will look for those cookbooks when we get to rome. it would be right up our alley to do a feast. i love that they dressed in togas as well.

  7. June 18, 2008 6:30 pm

    What a great idea- Your kids look so cute as little Romans. I’ve always dreamed of getting my kids to eat international foods. It is still a dream- if it isn’t chicken …their not trying it. Oh well, I will have to live vicarious through your feasts!

  8. June 22, 2008 10:24 pm

    I LOVE IT! Your Romans are the cutest I’ve ever seen! The food looks fabulous. What a great way to end the year. 🙂

  9. June 22, 2009 3:33 am

    Your idea is brilliant.You gave me an idea for my blog! thank you
    perhaps you would like to see what goes on in Rome sometimes!
    yours Ren

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