Strange and Interesting Foods Eaten In Ancient Rome

7 Strange & Interesting Foods Eaten In Ancient Rome

It’s no surprise that Ancient Roman’s dined on some pretty bizarre things in their heyday. Long before the times of Food Network, Martha Stewart and Pinterest they were forced to get creative and were constantly inventing new dishes. From stuffed mice to swine wombs, here are seven of the most strange and interesting foods eaten in Ancient Rome.

The Most Strange and Interesting Foods Eaten In Ancient Rome

1. Stuffed Dormice

One favourite of the Romans were dormice. These adorable mice were much bigger than the ones we know today and were generally stuffed with pork and seasoned with pepper and broth.

2. Sea Urchins

These porcupine-like sea creatures were common among the Romans as a topping, a main dish or side. They were generally boiled in olive oil, sweet wine and seasoned with pepper. They could be topped on anything from brains to cheese casseroles and are still eaten today.

3. Flamingo Tongue

You’ve heard of tacos de lengua (tongue tacos) but have you heard of flamingo tongue? The Roman’s didn’t discriminate when it came to birds. They ate everything from peacocks to parrots to pigeons. In Roman times, flamingos were considered a status of wealth and class, so it’s no wonder why upper-class Romans enjoyed them at banquets and feasts.

In particular, though, were the tongues. Flamingo tongues were highly enjoyed by well-to-do Romans and were the highlight of any fancy dinner.

4. Garum

In a few words, you could call garum the ketchup of Ancient Rome. This sauce was put in absolutely everything from marinades to salads, desserts and more. The recipe goes something likes this. Fish intestines and blood are to be steeped in salt and stored in a vessel for several weeks. This would ferment the mixture and lead to a potent smell and taste. Afterwards, spices and herbs would be added to tweak the flavour before it was used as a sauce.

As grotesque and disgusting as it sounds, garum was thought to hold tons of medicinal and nutritional properties, making it famous among peasants and nobles alike.

ancient roman foods

5. Ostrich

These massive and majestic birds were considered an exotic delicacy in Ancient Rome. They were generally served with a sauce consisting of honey, herbs and spices which pairs very nicely according to Apicius’ cookbook.

ancient roman foods

6. Lamb Brain

What goes better on a weeknight dinner table than lamb brain? Ancient Romans enjoyed lamb brain in a variety of ways from cured, boiled, baked and more. One Apicius recipe even calls for lamb brain, eggs, pepper and rose petals.

ancient roman foods

7. Sow’s Womb

Sow’s womb is exactly what it sounds like. In Roman times, the pigs would be spayed prior to slaughter, and their womb would be harvested for meals. While often served as a delicacy and not an everyday meal, it’s interesting nonetheless. The wombs were generally prepared with honey, vinegar, broth and a variety of spices and herbs like celery seed, mint and pepper.

ancient roman foods
image: Roman Mosaics/Facebook
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Melanie Hamilton
Melanie Hamilton

Melanie is an avid traveller with a passion for history and global foods. She is currently based in Tbilisi, Georgia where most of her time is occupied with qvevri wine and Soviet history. Having do-si-do'd her way across Europe and Latin America, she's enjoyed some of the world's most exciting places firsthand and can't wait to tell you about them.

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