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Cooking and Eating in the Ancient World

Published onSep 18, 2020
Cooking and Eating in the Ancient World

In Rome, eating and drinking was a social event. The elites would have people over to dine to show off their wealth and status. Dining would not have been a short event for the Romans instead they would lounge and take their time while they were served wine. Roman houses were crafted in such a way that made this more enjoyable by placing the dining room at the back of the house with a view of the home's internal garden. The Romans did not like to be bored and this gave them something entertaining to view while they dined. In later years of the empire, the Romans even included intricate wall paintings in their dining areas as well as other areas within the home to view. In this exhibition check out Rome section to see some drinking and serving vessels.

In China, the diets were diverse because of their far reaching trading roads. They ate many different meats—although bulls were deemed sacred and beef was banned in the 7th century CE—and seafood as well. The Chinese during the Tang dynasty had a wide range of vegetables available to them. Along with the meats and vegetables, the Chinese—like the Romans—enjoyed wine and often made their meals social events.  In this exhibition, you can see a steamer that would have been used to cook foods by putting water in the bottom compartment and lighting a flame beneath the stand. Steaming along with boiling was a popular way to cook food during this period.  This steamer dates back to the Tang dynasty. There are also a few plates that date to this period that can be seen and would have been used for eating.

In the Near East, the diet was not vastly different from that in China. Both cultures ate much seafood, avoided cattle, and added various vegetables and spices to their cuisine. Honey was also a common flavor additive in both these cultures. Different from Rome and China, the people of the ancient near east drank beer as their intoxicant of choice. The earliest evidence of brewing, in fact, comes from this area and was already popular in 3,000 BCE. Wine, on the other hand, was reserved only for the very very wealthy. In this section of  exhibition you will find many vessels used for drinking and serving these beverages along with others. 

Still interested in dining in Ancient Rome? Checkout this lecture on october 20th.

Have questions about dining? Comment below!

Hope Santini:

Great post Sarah.