19 April 2009

Cookery and Dining In Imperial Rome

"Apicius, the most gluttonous gorger of all spendthrifts, established the view that the flamingo's tongue has a specially fine flavor."

Pliny, Natural History

It is generally believed that the oldest know cookery book was written by Apicius. There is some question as to which Apicius is the actual writer. Marcus A. lived about 100 B.C. There is an Apicius Caelius, thought to be the author because of initials on a early, damaged copy of the manuscript. It is widely accepted, however, that the writer or this earliest cookery book is M. Gabius Apicius, who lived under Augustus and Tiberius from around 80 B.C. to 40 A.D.

While the writings of Apicius were translated from Latin into German and Italian, it was 1936 before the work was translated into English by Joseph Dommers Vehling. That translation was limited to an edition of 530. The copy I have is a reprint of Vehling's edition, Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome. As new scholarship emerges, it is widely regarded that the first English translation is to the recent (2006) edition translated and edited by Christopher Grocock and Sally Grainger, Apicius, a Critical Edition.

To her Pliny tell it, Apicius was ever so fond of birds such as flamingos, peacocks, parrots whose brains and tongues offered up a delectable amuse-bouche.

On the fruity side, here is his recipe for pears.

A Dish of Pears

A dish of pears is made this way: [1] Stew the pears , clean out the center [remove core and seeds] Crush them with pepper, cumin, honey, raisin wine, broth and a little oil; mix with eggs and make a pie [custard] of this, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

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