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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

Inlaid with tortoise shells and jewels


The

diners reclined on costly sofas, inlaid with tortoise shells and jewels, and the lower parts decked with embroidered gold. The pillows were stuffed with wool and covered with gorgeous purple. The cushions which supported the elbows were covered with silk stuffs, often marked to designate the places of the various guests.

Three people occupied each sofa. The lowest place on the middle sofa was the seat of honor.

The room or hall was illuminated by lamps and candles, set on individual and very expensive stands or massed in candelabras of great magnificence. The oils and fats used for illumination were diluted with substances which under the influence of heat gave forth odors of great fragrance.

Each guest brought his own napkin.

Ivory-handled knives were manufactured, but seldom used, as the reclining position rendered the spoons (_ligulae_) more convenient.

The dessert was arranged on the sideboards under the supervision of the pistor and structor before the meal commenced.

A nomenclator was the regular employe of every patrician. His sole office was to prompt his master on the names of his guests and clients, or hangers-on.

Much care was devoted by the wealthy to their private stores of wines. They were sealed in jars or bottles of baked

clay, with labels attached bearing the year of the consulship during which they were made. Some old wines were very expensive. That of Campania was considered the best. The Caecuban Falernian was very good. He was pitied who was forced to drink the Vatican!

[Illustration: A banquet in the days of ancient Rome (original taken from a stone carving excavated from the site of Pompeii).]

Greek wines were popular and were found in many Roman cellars.

In winter, wine was heated with water, honey and spices in a caldarium, a vessel fitted with a small charcoal furnace, closely resembling the Russian samovar.

Being unable to sensibly decrease their riches by ordinary methods, many novel ideas were put in use, often at great expense.

Nero constructed in his golden house a vaulted ceiling which turned continuously on its axis.

At a banquet given by Otho, tubes of gold and silver suddenly protruded from various parts of the hall and sprinkled perfumes on the assembly.

Petronius describes a rather fanciful affair given by Trimalchio.

After the company had taken their places and young Egyptian slave girls had bathed their hands and feet in scented snow water, there was placed on the table a gold salver, inlaid with tortoise shell, in the middle of which stood an ass of bronze bearing silver panniers, one filled with white and the other with black olives. On his back sat a Silenus pouring from a wineskin the favorite sauce the _garum_; at one side were sausages on a silver gridiron, under which were plums and red pomegranate kernels to represent glowing coals, and placed around were trays bearing vegetables, snails, oysters and other appetizers.


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