Good Reading: De Re Coquinaria by Apicius

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

[That’s On Cookery to you and me, or as it’s now known, On Cookery and Dining In Imperial Rome.]

Until I took a course in Culinary History I neither knew, nor ever considered, what would be the oldest known cookbook in existence. Given the concept “oldest cookbook,” I might have conjured up images of my mother’s tattered copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook or her chocolate-frosting-smudged The Joy of Cooking that is permanently glued to the shelf.

The truth is, sometime in the first century (A.D.), a very wealthy Roman named Marcus Gavius Apicius, published a collection of recipes originally intended for professional chefs in Rome. The manuscript survives today in the form of many translations. This one, by Joseph Vehling, is aimed at the cook, rather than the historian.

In other words – you can actually cook from this book. And don’t think we won’t try. Here’s a sampling of included recipes:

Conditum Melizomum Viatorium (Honey Refresher for Travelers)
Patina de Rosis (Rose Pie)
Patina a Frisilis (Vegetable and Brain Pudding)
Gustum de Praecoquis (Compote of Early Fruit)
Ius Candidum in Ansere Elixo (White Sauce for Boiled Goose)

Wouldn’t you trust a man who purportedly fed his pigs with dried figs and slaughtered them by overdosing them on honeyed wine?