"Sed fortuna, quae plurimum potest cum in reliquis rebus tum praecipue in bello, parvis momentis magnas rerum commutationes efficit; ut tum accidit."

C. Iulius Caesar - Commentarii de Bello Civili Bk III.68

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Pompeii - ancient Roman cuisine


Archaeologists in Pompeii give visitors a taste of ancient Roman cuisine

Sauces made from fermented fish entrails. A quiche-like pastry shell filled with bay leaves and ricotta cheese. For dessert, peaches with aromatic cumin and honey.

Those tastes may not be for everyone's palate, but the specialties of ancient Pompeii are being revived for a month at the site of the ruins by a research project intended to give new insights into how the Romans lived.

Pompeii's busiest restaurant was buried with the rest of the prosperous city when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. The eruption killed thousands of people, but a 20-foot-deep cocoon of volcanic ash kept the city almost intact, providing precious information on domestic life in the ancient world.

Starting Thursday, visitors will do more than stroll around the restaurant's tables and gaze at the kitchen tools that have stayed where residents left them when they were surprised by the eruption.

Researchers have tried to revive the city's food by replanting the fruits and vegetables that were part of the Roman diet: figs and olives, plums and grapes, as well as poppy, broom (a flowery bush), bramble (a prickly shrub), and mallow (an herb).