Bon Appetit Wednesday! An Ancient Roman Salad

salad-164685_640This week we’re bringing you a recipe straight out of ancient Rome. The Columella Salad, named for its author, Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella, is the perfect side dish and would fit easily on any modern menu. Yet it was created in the first century CE! Full of scrumptious, fresh ingredients, this salad is light, tasty and ancient.

Columella was a Roman soldier and farmer who was much more interested in writing about the agriculture of the Roman Empire than he was in advancing its borders in battle. He wrote extensively about the subject in his 12 books, De Re Rustica and in his other work De Arboribus. [1] His books include information about everything from wild plants to gardening and even animal husbandry. When you’re spending all of your time studying ingredients, you’re bound to come up with a few recipes, and that’s exactly what Columella did. Today’s recipe is plucked from the pages of De Re Rustica.

Romans loved salads. Columella’s writings suggest the Romans were much like we are today in their search for delicious and inventive salad combinations.[2] A main ingredient in all of these recipes was salt. In fact, the word salad comes from the Latin word sal, meaning salt. The Romans didn’t call their combinations of fresh vegetables and herbs salad, but they knew they were on to something important. Actually, the ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans both believed salads were healthy. The physicians Hippocrates and Galen stated that “raw vegetables easily slipped through the system and did not create obstructions for what followed, therefore they should be served first.”[3] Of course, there was some debate over when exactly the salad should be served because others said that the vinegar in the dressing “diluted the flavor of the wine” and so the salad should always be served last.[4] Regardless of when it was served, it had to have a delicious dressing. Oil, vinegar and even brine were poured over the salted veggies.[5]

Today we like to load our salads up with meat, cheese, fruits, nuts and the creamiest, fattiest dressings we can find, but let’s not forget the simple tastiness of a salad as designed and approved by the ancient Romans. Tonight instead of serving a house salad to start, serve the Columella salad and share a timeless flavor.

Columella’s Salad

Portrait of Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella.

Portrait of Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella.

*Adapted from Patrick Faas.

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ ounces of fresh mint (and/or pennyroyal)
  • 1 ½ ounces of fresh coriander
  • 1 ½ ounces of fresh parsley
  • 1 small leek
  • a sprig of fresh thyme
  • 7 ounces of salted fresh cheese
  • vinegar
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Place the mint, coriander, parsley, leek, thyme and cheese in a mortar and grind it all together.
  2. Stir in a mixture of peppered oil and vinegar.
  3. Place the salad on a plate and serve.

[1] The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (n.d.). Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (Roman author). Retrieved October 9, 2014.

[2] Faas, P. (n.d.). Eight ancient Roman recipes from Around the Roman Table : Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome. Retrieved October 9, 2014.

[3] Katz, S. (2003). Encyclopedia of food and culture. New York: Scribner.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ayto, J. (2002). An A-Z of food and drink. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

5 responses to “Bon Appetit Wednesday! An Ancient Roman Salad

  1. Reblogged this on Empires, Cannibals, and Magic Fish Bones and commented:
    While eating this first century CE Roman salad, why not read Seneca’s “On Tranquility of Mind.” A Stoic pairing.

  2. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! Ancient Roman Garlic Pesto (Moretum) | AntiquityNOW

  3. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! National Herbs and Spices Day | AntiquityNOW

  4. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! Kids Take Over the Ancient Kitchen | AntiquityNOW

  5. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! National Salad Month | AntiquityNOW

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