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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

Next came a huge boar roasted whole


that course had been removed, another dish was brought in, of which the central feature was a hen of carved citrus wood with expanded wings, brooding over a nest of peafowls' eggs. These eggs were handed around on silver egg-spoons weighing each more than half a pound. When the shells were broken, some of the guests were horrified to find within them half-hatched chicks; but on closer inspection these proved to be beccaficos cooked in egg sauce.

As the plates were being removed, a chorus of Oriental beauties chanted their strange songs. A slave by accident let fall a silver dish; he stooped to pick it up--the atriensis boxed his ears and bade him sweep it out with the other fragments.

Wine of rare virtue and great age was then brought in and distributed with almost obtrusive extravagance.

The first heavy course again surprised many of those who were present. It consisted apparently of the most ordinary dishes and joints. But these proved to be merely cleverly designed covers, which on being lifted, disclosed roasted pigs, field fares, capons, noble bartels and turbots. In the centre was a plump hare which, by the addition of a pair of wings, had been made to resemble a Pegasus. The carving was done in the presence of the diners and to the strains of slow music.

Next came a huge boar roasted whole, with two palm twig baskets filled with dates,

hanging from his tusks. By his side were eight small pigs, cleverly molded in paste, which were presented to guests as remembrances of the occasion.

Following the boar was a large swine, also cooked whole. After much acclamation, the carver was about to do his work, when with a look of disgust he announced that it had not been disemboweled. The cook was called and severely chided. He feigned regret and made many excuses; then seizing a heavy knife, ripped the animal open, letting fall into the dish a mass of sausages and rich puddings.

After the pig had been carried away and while the dessert was being placed on the table, the ceiling opened and a silver hoop descended bearing gold, silver and alabaster phials of essences, silver and jewel coronets and many other things of similar character.

The pastry had been made to resemble shellfish, field fares, etc. Quinces were stuck full of almonds to imitate sea urchins.

Surrounded by flowers was a figure of Vertumnus, with its bosom piled with fruits. The guests were invited to help themselves, and the pressure of their hands on the fruit caused a shower of the daintiest perfume.

When all had partaken to repletion of the goods served, the spirit of Bacchus was given full sway, half nude dancers and singers threw off all restraint, and there were enacted scenes of riotous carousing for which Rome in its decadence became notorious.

A weird dinner was once given by the Emperor Domitian. He invited a number of senators and knights to dine with him at a late hour. When they arrived they found that the banquet room had been draped in somber black. At each seat had been placed a tombstone bearing the inscription of a diner and naked black slaves danced weird dances and served up funeral viands on black dishes. When the company had been dismissed, its members found that all their slaves had disappeared and unknown bearers carried them to their homes. Each found on his return a message and a souvenir awaiting him--a silver tombstone bearing his name.

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