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Romn-Sod-Diet-art - 8/16/17


"A Roman Soldier's Diet" by Domina Arria Marina.


NOTE: See also the files: Int-Roman-cl-art, cl-Romans-msg, fd-Romans-msg, Roman-Cuisine-art, Roman-Recipes-art, garum-msg, Caligae-Boots-art.





This article was added to this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium, with the permission of the author.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



You can find more work by this author on her website at:



A Roman Soldier's Diet

A Class Lecture and Food Samples by Domina Arria Marina


Napoleon once said, "An army marches on its stomach". However, it is likely that he read the phrase in Ars Militaris by the Roman writer Vegetius, who most likely learned it from the Greek historians Thucydides and Herodotus. Since the beginning of warfare, the issue of how to feed a large standing army has been one of the largest logistics problems to be faced, and the Roman army was no exception.


We've been led to think that ancient Romans were mainly vegetarian and that when the legions came into contact with the European barbarians they had trouble stomaching the meat-rich food. In his article "The Roman Military Diet," published in Britannia in 1971, R.W. Davies disagrees: "The tradition about the legions being near vegetarian in camp is very believable for the early Republican era. By the latter half of the 2nd century B.C., the whole Roman world had opened up and almost all aspects of Roman life, including diet, had changed from the 'old days'."


In Roman times, the general diet was what one could get to eat and it was nearly all fresh, in-season, produce. The facilities for saving food were extremely limited and consisted of drying, smoking, pickling or salting. However, it should be noted that food poisoning was quite common. Even so, the soldier did get his rations on a regular basis, although it was variable in content and quality dependent upon where they were stationed, who they were, and if they were under punishment or not. For instance, a cavalryman got twice as much grain allowance as a foot soldier, presumably half for his horses, and the centurio (officer) got more than a milite (foot soldier).


A soldier always marched with at least a good supply of dried meat, hard tack biscuits, and sour wine (vinegar). When supplies would inevitably run low, the army would take from anyone it passed. When on station, the soldiers ate considerably better. They always maintained a herd of cattle, sheep, and goats. It should be mentioned, however, that the only record of dissention in the ranks occurred when the Legions were fed beef – an animal which was considered to be used for pack and hauling, not eating. A milite would much prefer to eat a HORSE before he ate COW. Besides meat, the Romans grew grain and other crops, including fruits and vegetables, and they foraged for variety. Naturally, the diet varied depending on the location and terrain.


The soldier's ration per diem included two to three pounds of grain; oil or lard; bacon or some other meat; sour wine; salt; cheese; fruit and vegetables. The meat part of the ration most often would have been sheep, venison, boar, goat, and hare, although elk, bear, wild ox, and horse have also been recorded at some sites. Anything not provided by the rations could be purchased at the local vicus (village) or canabae (trading settlement outside of a fort). Of course, more foods were available to a milite ordinarius or his woman (morganatic wife) as they had the necessary connections as well as food parcels sent from home.


Soldiers had access to two main varieties of bread: simple baked loaves, and double-baked bucellatum ("hard tack" biscuits). In campaign conditions, it was normally the soldiers themselves who milled and baked this, as they were organized in tent-groups of eight, called kontoubernia, sharing a hand-mill and basic cooking utensils. The bucellatum was more easily preserved over a longer period, was easy to produce, and demanded fairly simple milling and baking skills. Hard tack could be baked in klibanoi (field ovens) or simply laid in the ashes of camp fires, an advantage when speed was essential; however, the soldiers much preferred the bread baked in thin oval loaves cooked in a field-oven, and then dried in the sun.


Based on historical records, I think it can be said that the Roman Army marched on very satisfied stomachs!




Morning: Main meal of the day.


• Porridge (large helping)

• Occasional egg

• Unleavened Bread (Pita Bread)

• Olive Oil (in lieu of butter)

• Seasonal fruit

• Posca


Midday: A light meal, possibly eaten on the move.


• Dried meat (salt pork) • Dried fruit (figs)

• Bread

• Posca


Evening: Similar to midday, with other ingredients possible.


• Turnips, parsnips, carrots (root vegetables); rocket (lettuce); cabbage; onions; peppers

• Apples and pears (when in season); dried figs, dates, apricots; grapes; raspberries; lemons; olives

• Anchovies, fish, mollusks (oysters and mussels)

• Hare, venison, boar, oxen, pork, sausage, lamb, goat, and poultry (chicken, duck, goose, pheasant, swan) • Cheeses (fresh and smoked)

• Lentils and chickpeas

• Saffron, pepper, cinnamon, and other spices

• Flour and pastry

• Honey

• Pine nuts

• Garum fish sauce

• Posca


Foods Available in Today's Class


Morning Meal: Porridge, lagana (flat bread), grapes, pear, posca


Marching Meal: Bucellatum (hardtack), salt pork, dates, olives, posca


Camp Meal: Fresh cheese, baked loaf bread, eggs w/ pine nuts, lentils and root vegetables, roasted pork w/ apples, Conditum paradoxum (spiced wine)


I will not try to reinvent the wheel, at this time! Recipes and Redactions can be found at "Pass the Garum" http://pass-the-garum.blogspot.co.uk/

and "Silk Road Gourmet" http://www.silkroadgourmet.com/



Bucellatum (Hardtack) from "Pass the Garum"


The late-Roman Codex Theodosianus, a compilation of Roman laws, states that during expeditions a Roman soldier should be supplied with "buccellatum ac panem, vinum quoque atque acetum, sed et laridum, carnem verbecinam." or "hardtack and bread, wine too and vinegar, but also bacon and mutton." (VII.4.6). Soldiers were supposed to have the hardtack, mutton and vinegar for two days and then have a day of bread, wine and bacon. We've already seen that the Romans turned vinegar into the refreshing drink posca, learned what bacon might be eaten with and discovered two different ways of baking bread. But what of buccellatum? What is hardtack?


Hardtack is a simple biscuit made from flour, salt and water. As the name suggests, it is rock hard, baked twice at low temperatures for a very long time, ensuring that no moisture is left inside. This makes bucellatum perfect for soldiering since without moisture it takes a long time to go off - ideal for prolonged campaigns in Britain where the weather would quickly spoil bread and flour. Just as bucellatum was perfectly suited to soldiering, it was perfectly suited to soldiers too - a tooth lost to this rock hard biscuit was just another war wound. In fact, so perfect was this match that Roman soldiers came to be known as bucellarii (Photius, Bibliotheca, 80). The association between hardtack and the military continues long past ancient Rome, with hardtack being eaten by crusaders, Elizabethan sailors and by folks fighting in the American Civil War.


Bucellatum may have been eaten dry, soaked in posca or softened in a stew - no doubt soldiers found a variety of ways to make this staple more exciting. Given how long it lasts, if you cook up a batch you can try new ways of preparing it for years to come. Whilst there is no surviving recipe for Roman bucellatum, there are plenty for hardtack. All are based upon flour, salt and water, ingredients which the Roman army had in abundance and distributed to its soldiers. Instead of oil, which some recipes call for, I have used a small amount of butter.




1.5c Flour (Whole wheat and Spelt) 2 tsp Water

1 tsp Salt

1 tbsp Olive Oil




Mix the flour, salt, and butter. Add the water, bit at a time, to create a stiff (dry) dough - hardtack is supposed to be completely dry when finished. Roll the dough out until it is 1/2 inch thick. Some sources describe bucellatum as being round, so use an upturned glass to cut out the biscuits. Punch holes in the dough to allow the air - and moisture - to escape whilst baking. I used a chopstick to do this. Place onto a baking tray and into an oven preheated to around 120 Celsius - you want to cook the hardtack at a low heat for a long time. Mine took 2.5 hours. Halfway through I turned the biscuits over and re-punched the holes. Leave the hardtack to cool in the oven for several hours. If any are still moist, cook in the oven until totally dry.



Posca (Sour Wine) from "Pass the Garum"


Posca, the Roman vinegar-based wonder-drink, is a bit of a mystery, because as much as people keep mentioning it, it is oddly absent from ancient literature. Posca appears in books and articles, being sipped by soldiers and passed around by pals, yet we don't even have a recipe for it!


Basically, we know that soldiers were given a vinegar ration (Vegetius, Concerning Military Matters, 3.3), and that this vinegar could be mixed with water and drunk. (Celsus, On Medicine, 2.27) Hadrian drank posca to 'be one of the soldiers' (Historia Augusta: Hadrian, 10.2), and from this we can infer that it wasn't a drink usually served to the rich. On the contrary, this was a drink sold on the streets! (Suetonius, Vitellius, 12.1) If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense - vinegar is what is left when wine production goes 'wrong', or if wine is left exposed for too long. Knowing how much wine the Romans got through, it stands to reason that there was a lot of vinegar knocking about - so, why not put it to use?


Clearly posca was good enough to keep a Roman army marching - in his soldiering days, Cato the Elder drank posca to fend off raging thirst. (Plutarch, Cato the Elder, 1.10). The sharpness of the vinegar masked the taste of questionable water, the acidity would have helped to kill off certain bacteria, and, according to a recent study, vinegar makes you feel more full after eating bread. We shouldn't rush to say that the Romans knew all of this, but it is important nonetheless. What wasn't so important to the Romans was writing the recipe down, which leaves us in a bit of a pickle.


I've encountered several recipes online, some simplistic, and others quite complex. They're all feasible with regards to ingredients, so we're going to try them all and see how they taste. If anybody can find a reliable source for any of these recipes, please do get in touch! Before starting, make sure you use brewed vinegar (red-wine vinegar preferably), rather than distilled.


This is often referred to as "Gladiator Gatorade" by reenactors. Mix equal parts honey and vinegar (red wine or balsamic) to form the "base". Then add a few tablespoons to a glass of water.


jdm31424 September 2013 at 00:09


The oft repeated claim that we have no recipes for posca is incorrect. In fact I know of six! Granted, these are all in medical texts, so probably do not represent the everyday form of the drink, but the line between food and medicine was much thinner in antiquity, and in particular the Romans seem to have been fond of drinks with purported medical effects. Each recipe calls for vinegar-water (unfortunately none of them says in what ratio!) and pennyroyal. All but one of them call for salt. None of them contains a sweetener (well, one counts for melon flesh—and seeds!—to be mixed in. The same one, in fact, that omits the salt.)


If you think about it, we still like to drink acidic drinks in hot weather, particularly lemonade. And furthermore, what is Gatorade if not acid and salt? It makes a lot of sense for worn out soldiers baking in the sun, loaded down with packs and armor, to drink this stuff.


Here are my sources:


• P.Oxy. 1384

• Anthimus De Observatione Ciborum 58

• Aëtius Iatrica 3.81—82 (two recipes)

• Paul of Aegina, Epitomæ Medicæ 7.5.10 (two recipes)


In North America, switchel (vinegar, water, and molasses) was often served to labourers as a sort of proto-gatorade: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switchel. It's not half bad, either, but then I've always liked molasses.



Soft Boiled Eggs with Pine-Nut Sauce from "Pass the Garum"


Eggs were actually quite expensive in the ancient Mediterranean, costing one denarius per egg. If you were buying a dozen of them, as we so often do today, you'd have to fork out 12 denarii, or perhaps 10 if you knew how to barter well. When you consider that the average worker in 300 A.D. was making just 25 denarii per day, you come to recognize that eggs weren't an ingredient to be used with reckless abandon.


If we were a farmer with a few hens running around, we wouldn't need to worry so much, but as it stands we are mere manual labourers who have blown half of our pay packet on a dozen eggs because the fella' at the market convinced us it was a deal we couldn't afford to miss. What we want to know is, how do we make the most of these eggs? Why, we poach them and pour over a pine-nut sauce of course!


The recipe describes the eggs as ova hapala, which means that they ought to be very soft-boiled. I've opted to poach them briefly to achieve this effect. As you will also notice, I've omitted the lovage called for in the recipe. This isn't for any culinary reasons - I simply haven't been able to find any recently!


"Serve pepper, lovage, soaked nuts, honey, vinegar, and garum." - Apicius, 7.17.3




4 Eggs

1.5oz Pine-Nuts

1 tsp Honey

1 tbsp Red-Wine Vinegar 1/2 tsp Pepper

1 tbsp Garum




Soak the pine-nuts in water for several hours to soften them - this will help us make the sauce later. If you want to be that bit more decadent, soak them in white wine to add some subtle flavour to the dish. Pine-nuts suitably soaked, drain them and add them to a mortar (or food processor) with the honey, red-wine vinegar, pepper and garum. Crush crush crush. You can make the 'sauce' as smooth as you like.


Sauce prepared, it's time to poach the eggs. Or softly boil them:


· Add a few inches of water to a saucepan and bring this to a gentle simmer.


· Once the water is simmering away, add a little bit of white-vinegar - the word on science street is that this stops the egg from falling apart while it cooks. Don't let the water boil.


· Crack an egg into a small bowl or ramekin.


· Stir the water in circles to create a vortex (or invoke Neptune to do it for you). As it swirls, gently pour the egg from the bowl/ramekin into the water. You need to be gentle to prevent it falling apart.


· 4 minutes later and the egg is done. Take it out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set it into your serving dish.


With your eggs arranged in a serving dish, spoon a little of the sauce over each of them. Finish by sprinkling over some more pepper, then tuck in and enjoy!




Perhaps it's just my predilection for poached eggs, but this dish was thoroughly enjoyable. The earthiness of the pine-nuts combined beautifully with the poached egg, whilst the sharpness of the vinegar cut through the sauce's heavy texture. The recipe is quite reminiscent of Eggs Benedict, albeit an Eggs Benedict with much stronger flavors. If you want to get the most from your expensive eggs, you need look no further.



Mashed Lentil and Root Vegetables from "Pass the Garum"


In this first post we'll make the mash itself, and in the next we'll cook up some simple spelt-flour flatbread to eat it with. The original recipe only calls for parsnip (and we know how good they taste!), but I see this as a perfect opportunity to cook some carrots too. (Fun fact: Carrots were purple in antiquity!) To make this recipe more accessible, we'll be leaving out 'fleabane', a daisy-like plant which is no longer used in cooking.


"Boil the lentils in a clean pan with some salt. In the mortar, crush some pepper, cumin, coriander seed, rue, and fleabane. Add vinegar, honey, garum, & defrutum. Mix this with the lentils. Cook and mash parsnips, and add to the lentils. When it is cooked, add some extra virgin olive oil and serve appropriately." - Apicius, 5.2.1




1 each Parsnip, Carrot 0.5 cup Split Red Lentils 1 tsp Coriander Seeds

1 tsp Rue

1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds

1/2 tsp Black Pepper

1 tsp Garum

1 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar 1.5 tbsp Honey

3 tbsp Caroenum

1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil




Add the lentils to a saucepan and pour in enough water to cover them. Throw in a pinch of salt, and bring to the boil. This will take approximately 20-30 minutes, and will require you to add more water every once in a while. Peel and chop up the carrot and parsnip, set them into a saucepan full of water, and bring to the boil. Whilst everything is boiling away, toast the various herbs and spices in a dry frying pan for around a minute, being careful not to burn them. Grind them all up together in a mortar and pestle. Once the lentils have turned to mush and the liquid has largely boiled away, add the spice mix and pour in the various liquids (except the oil). Stir it all together and let it simmer while you sort out the root vegetables. When the parsnips and carrots are cooked, drain the water from the pan and mash them up. Mix the lentils and root vegetables together with the tbsp of olive oil. Heat in the pan for a little while longer until the liquids have mostly evaporated. Serve and enjoy!




This mash makes for a remarkably filling meal - I had intended this recipe to serve just one, but it quickly became apparent that I would need help to finish it! Besides being filling, the dish was delicious. The lentils added a subtle, salty flavor to the meal, providing a wonderful backdrop to the sweetness of the parsnips and carrots. The sweetness of the root vegetables was further emphasized by the caroenum and honey, and the saltiness of the lentils by our friend the fish sauce. The dish was afforded some warmth by the cumin and coriander seeds, but rather amazingly, the stand out flavor and aroma came from the rue, despite so little being used. Final verdict? Filling and flavorsome - always a good combination.



Spelt Lagana from "Pass the Garum"


Roman food, as the picture suggests, was a bit hands on - our favourite soldiers and senators didn't use cutlery very much, preferring instead to tuck in with their fingers and toes (ok, not toes) instead. That makes eating Lentil and Root Veg Mash a bit tricky, which is why we shall serve it with some lagana - a type of Roman flatbread.


Flatbread is great stuff - all you need is flour, water, and a hot surface. With no need for yeast or fancy ovens, this is the kind of bread, which anybody, rich or poor, could eat. I'm making mine with Spelt flour, a type of flour used in Roman Britain. I know Spelt can be quite tricky to find though, so feel free to use whatever flour you can find.




0.5 cup Spelt Flour (+ extra for dusting) Water




Prepare a work surface by sprinkling over some flour. Sieve 100g of flour into a bowl, and add just enough water to form a dough. Knead this by hand, adding more flour as necessary, until it is neither too wet nor dry. Divide the ball of dough into four equal pieces. Roll these one at a time until they are flat, disc-shaped, and uniformly thin. Add a drop of oil to a frying pan, and when it is hot enough, set a laganum in. As it cooks, it will start to puff-up in places as pockets of air are formed. When dark spots start to form on the underside, flip it over. Each side should take about a minute to cook. If needs be, press down on the top side to speed things up.




Despite being just flour and water, these lagana are great eaten straight out of the pan; the nutty flavor of spelt works wonderfully in this instance (in fact, it left my kitchen smelling vaguely of popcorn!) When eating with the mash, just rip a bit of bread off and use it to pick up some of the lentil & root veg goodness - it tastes good, and keeps your fingers nice and clean!



Conditum Paradoxum from "Pass the Garum"


Conditum paradoxum is an incredibly sweet spiced wine, similar to mulled wine, which tastes largely of pepper and saffron. The pepper means that the mixture is warming even when served cold. The addition of fennel seeds results in aniseed undertones, but not so much as to be overpowering. I think that without some form of dilution, whether in wine or water, conditum becomes sickly quite quickly. Overall, this is a luxurious drink which, when served warm, is perfectly suited to the cold winter months.


Unlike most Roman recipes, we have exact quantities for this drink, but because this will produce an industrial sized batch, I have reduced the amounts. As I was just testing the recipe, my quantities are enough to produce a single glass - scale the amounts if you want a bottle's worth. A point to note is that this wine is incredibly sweet, much like a dessert wine or mead. We know that in ancient Rome it was uncommon to drink wine straight - it tended to be diluted with water. If you find that you need to do this, then do so! Finally, whilst it is unlikely that this was drunk whilst warm, I think that, much like mulled wine, it is well worth doing.


"Put six sextarii of honey into a bronze jar containing two sextarii of wine, so that the wine will be boiled off as you cook the honey. Heat this over a slow fire of dry wood, stirring with a wooden rod as it boils. If it boils over, add some cold wine. Take off the heat and allow to cool. When it does cool, light another fire underneath it. Do this a second and a third time and only then remove it from the brazier and skim it. Next, add 4 ounces of pepper, 3 scruples of mastic, a dragma of bay leaf and saffron, 5 date stones and then the dates themselves. Finally, add 18 sextarii of light wine. Charcoal will correct any bitter taste." - Apicius, 1.1



Roman Porridge from "Pass the Garum"


With Hannibal marching around Italy raiding farms for food, the Romans were stuck behind their walls living off grain shipped in from Sicily. These were hard times for both armies, something which I think is reflected in this porridge recipe; gone is the luxury of the honey, cheese, and eggs of last week's Punic Porridge. Of course, we must remember that many Romans never even had that luxury in the first place. In fact, this 'semolina' based porridge was probably something that most Romans could only ever dream of. A new study has revealed that the majority of people in the Roman world lived on a diet of millet - commonly used today as bird seed.


If it's that authentic Roman peasant or Punic War experience you're after, then replace the semolina with millet and eat this meal every day for 17 years. Otherwise, whilst you're wolfing down this rather plain porridge, be grateful that you only have to do it the once!


"Pour groats into a clean pot with fresh water and bring to the boil. When cooked, slowly add enough milk that it turns into a thick cream." - Cato, de agricultura, 86


This porridge looks and tastes like a bowl of hot semolina, which is unsurprising because that is exactly what it is. It is certainly filling, and not at all unpleasant to eat, but just a bit boring and utilitarian. Needless to say I feel a bit more sympathy for the everyday Roman whose entire eating life was spent alternating between this porridge and heavy bread.



Cato's Roman Bread from "Pass the Garum"


So, you've just arrived back from the grain distribution up on the Aventine and on the way home you popped into the miller's shop to get it ground up. You're sitting there with a sack of flour. Great, how do you eat this? Well, today we're going to start with the simplest of all recipes, and we're going to bake some bread. I'm taking inspiration from Cato the Elder's agricultural handbook, de agri cultura. This manual, written around 160 BCE, is the oldest piece of Roman prose we have, and is a guide to managing a farm. I like this recipe because it's a simple recipe dating from simple times and thus requires few ingredients and relatively little preparation - it's the kind of bread any Roman could have been making at any stage of Roman history. Cato writes:


"Recipe for kneaded bread: wash both your hands and a bowl thoroughly. Pour flour into the bowl, add water gradually, and knead well. When it is well kneaded, roll it out and bake it under an earthenware lid." -Cato, On Agriculture, 74


I'm going to take some liberties when it comes to baking the bread under an earthenware lid, as I don't actually own one, but his advice on washing hands and equipment is timeless. As Cato doesn't provide quantities or timings, I've experimented and come up with the following:




•500g Spelt flour •350ml Water

•A Pinch of Salt

•A Splash of Olive Oil




•Preheat an oven to 180°C.


•Wash hands and wash a large bowl - we're being authentic here!


•Add the flour to the bowl along with the pinch of salt. Give it a bit of a mix to distribute salt.


•Pour a splash of olive oil into the bowl.


•Slowly add in the water, mixing as you go, until you get a dough which isn't too floury and isn't too sticky.


•Knead the dough well and form into a circular shape. With a knife, score the top of the loaf, dividing it into 8. This doesn't particularly help with the baking process, but it's how the bread preserved at Pompeii looked, and it's how it's often depicted.


•Place on some greaseproof paper on a baking tray and place in the oven for 45 minutes. By this stage the bread should be lovely and crispy and golden on the outside. A good way to tell if it's ready on the inside is to tap the bottom of the loaf - if it's ready it will sound hollow. Because there is no yeast, the bread won't have risen much if at all.




•I added the olive oil because it keeps the bread softer for longer, and added salt to enhance the flavour of the bread a bit. I need some bread leftover for my moretum recipe. These two ingredients are ones which any Roman might have access to, so are not inauthentic.


•The bread lasted four days before it started to go mouldy.




The bread was a success, and everybody who tried it enjoyed it. The texture and the taste were very 'wheaty' because of the use of Spelt, and I personally am not sure what to make of this flavour. At the minute I find it quite overpowering, but with olive oil and vinegar for dipping the bread is very tasty indeed. Do I envy the Romans? In this instance, not quite.



Ancient Roman Pork with Apples from "Silk Road Gourmet"


This is an ancient recipe that balances sweet, sour, salty and bitter. And yes, it uses garum or liquamen so the umami factor for this one is through the roof! One of the interesting things about the recipe is that the pork is twice cooked. Yes, this is one of the way that Romans prepared pork leftovers – by cooking them with leeks and apples with herbs, spices, garum, honey, vinegar and the grape syrup known as defruitum.


"Minutal Matianum. Put in a sauce pan oil, broth finely chopped leeks, coriander, small tid-bits, cooked pork shoulder, cut into long strips including the skin, have everything equally half done. Add Matian apples cleaned, the core removed, slice lengthwise and cook them together: meanwhile crush pepper, cumin, green coriander, or seeds, mint, laser root, moistened with vinegar, honey and garum and a little reduced must, add to this the broth of the above morsels, vinegar to taste, boil, skim, bind strain over the morsels sprinkle with pepper and serve." Apicius (4.3.4)


To make defruitum – boil down grape juice until it is reduced by a 2/3 reduction. Caroneum is a 1/3 reduction, and sapa (or saba) is an almost complete reduction until it is a true, thick syrup (called "Mosto Cotto" in modern Italy). Interestingly, these syrups were boiled in a lead-lined pot, mixing with the syrup the chemical compound lead acetate, which has a very sweet taste—hence its original name, sugar of lead.


Also, as it is a, 'what to do with leftovers' dish, the pork has to be cooked in advance. If you don't have a pound of pork leftover from your last feast, you can boil the meat in enough water to cover in the morning, let it cool and make this recipe at night. I've taken to adding some crushed peppercorns to the water to flavor the meat and it is a delicious touch.


Lastly, asafoetida has been substituted for laser root (silphion). Silphion is thought to be a now extinct member of the Ferula genus. Asafoetida, although offering a more, crude onion-garlic flavor, is the best substitute.




1 pound pork shoulder or tenderloin, roasted or boiled and sliced lengthwise into strips

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil

1/8 pound ground pork or beef

11⁄2 tablespoons garum or fish sauce

3 leeks, cleaned and sliced in long thin strips, separated into white and green parts

3 teaspoons cumin seed, partially crushed

3 teaspoons coriander seed, partially crushed

4-5 long-pepper catkins, crushed

Handful of fresh mint leaves

1 small bunch, cilantro minced

1⁄2 cup beef or chicken broth or liquid from par-boiling the pork

1/3 – 1⁄2 cup white vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

2 large pinches of asafoetida

2 large firm apples, peeled and sliced lengthwise

1⁄4 cup defruitum (reduced grape juice)

1 teaspoon cracked pepper for garnish




•Make defruitum. For this recipe use a white grape juice variety.


•Harvest garum or buy fish sauce


•If necessary cook and cool pork. If you do not have sufficient leftovers from a large pork roast, boil the meat in


enough water to cover for 5-7 minutes and then cool in its juice. If boiling the meat, throw some additional crushed peppercorns into the water to season.




1. Place butter or oil in a large sauce pan and warm over medium or medium-low heat. Add ground meat and sauté – breaking up the meat into tiny tidbits as you stir. Add about 1 tablespoon of the garum, stir and warm. Add the white parts of the leeks and cover and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables start to wilt.


2. Add cumin, coriander seed and long pepper all lightly crushed and stir. Add the mint, cilantro and stir again. Add broth or water from parboiling the pork to moisten the contents of the pan. Then add the vinegar and stir well while the liquid warms. Add the honey, remaining garum, and asafoetida and stir again.


3. Add the pork and green part of the leeks, stir and cover to warm. When the pork has warmed, add the apples, stir and cover. After about five minutes add the defruitum and stir again. Cook another five minutes – or until the apples are just done – and remove from the heat. With this amount of liquid, I felt no need to bind the sauce with a roux or corn starch as suggested in th original recipe. If you wish to make a thick sauce, remove the solids from the pot and make a sauce. Otherwise, garnish with cracked pepper and serve. Excellent with barley or millet, or all by itself.


One of the things I like most about this dish is how it changes as you eat it. The combination of vinegar and the sugars from the honey and defruitum fill the room during preparation. When you first eat it (as written) the bitter turns to sweet, then there is that incredible savory of the garum followed by the sharp crack of all that pepper to form a perfect symphony of a dish.


It's a bit of work if you don't have the defruitum on hand, but I hope you give this one a try – it's a path back to an ancient Roman meal along the Silk Road. (Words and adaptation of Apician recipe by Laura Kelley)


Copyright 2017 by Angela Sanderson, <mailing address if given>. < arria.marina at gmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org