Historical records tell us that even regular citizens in Ancient Rome had ample opportunity for feasting. There were countless cook-shops in the city and the emperors regularly staged huge public banquets.
Julius Caesar (100 - 44 BC) was said to have started this custom and set new standards in the process. Following his victory over Gaul, he hosted a total of 260,000 guests at 22,000 tables. The sequence of courses was brilliant:
Mussels, sea urchins and oysters were served as the appetizers. They were followed by thrushes, chicken on a bed of asparagus, pâtés, pieces of venison filet and wild pork and octopus. The motto was “Only the best is good enough!” Good was equated with expensive.
The cookbooks of the great epicure Marcus Gavius Apicius (1 c AD) are the only documents offering glimpses of the sometimes unconventional preparation methods used for Roman dishes. Meat was the main source of nutrition. Meals were heavily spiced and covered in strong-tasting sauces. Cooking according to Apicius’s original recipes is a venture in approximation. The great epicure dispensed with quantities and listed only the ingredients.