Roman Cuisine in the Army (Vespasian Era)
The Roman's were well known for their strong army, having many prestigious military victories that strengthened their empire. However, they would be nowhere without the fuel that kept their soldiers going: food. The Roman's had a great amount of different foods that they liked to eat, ranging from hard bread to intricate meals, even delicious desserts! Seen above is a variant on their typical boiled pudding, now more commonly known as Christmas Pudding.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Romans followed a typical Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet has a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, and fish, with more moderation on dairy products and wine. This also means that the Romans sparingly had meat (however fish was not considered meat). Differing from the modern version of the diet however, the Romans did not have many staple foods that we commonly have available today. They did not eat spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, or citrus fruits, simply because they didn't have access to them. Their main reason for not eating much meat was because it was scarce. Beef was rare, as was pork, however poultry was a bit more common. Fish was the main "meat"of a dish.
What the Soldiers Ate
Even with all the mouth-watering food that Roman cuisine featured, soldiers would not be having the fancier foods. Grain was a pivotal part of feeding the Roman army, because it was what made up their bread and wine. Hard bread and wine made from grain was a typical ration if they happened to be in the field. When stationed back to reserve duty, the common soldier would on such rations. They would likely have fish, proper wine, and even sweets, much to their delight.
Garum: A Fish Sauce
Garum, a fish sauce used in the Roman times, was an extremely common condiment that the Romans would put on nearly all of their food. You'd be hard pressed to find a proper Roman recipe that did not call for this fermented fish sauce. Another common name for the sauce was Liquamen. Nowadays, one of it's more common successors is known as Worchestershire Sauce (Wus-te-shur). If you needed to cook a dish that calls for garum, a good way to substitute for it is to simply add in 3/4 part salt for every part of garum that is called for (1 tbl spoon of garum = 3/4 tbl spoon of salt), as garum was mostly salt. When served to soldiers, it was diluted with water, to create more of the sauce with slightly less of it's taste. When the upper class citizens used garum, it would be to enhance the flavor of certain dishes. It was especially effective when mixed with wine, vinegar, black pepper, or oil.
Food Network's Roman Cooking Show
With the below recipes, find out how to make some of the Roman's favorite foods!