A Roman Ientaculum

As I’ve tried out some more classical recipes, I decided it would be fun to reconstruct a Roman breakfast, or ientaculum. For inspiration, I had to turn to the ancients.

From what I found, this meal was rather light, taken after waking up to break the night’s fast. The physician Galen evidently refers to fruits like olives and dates as hearty breakfast foods, and Apuleius describes a ientaculum in his wonderfully funny novel Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass, that comprises bread with some cheese (1.18).

Even though this is my first stab at making an entire meal, it really was simple. I baked a small loaf of libum, sliced some cheese and a pear, got a handful of figs, and arranged them artfully on a plate — at least I attempted to. Below is a more complete list of some foods you might expect Romans to dine on in the morning:

  • Bread or some sort of cake, with oil or honey
  • Fruit (apricots, plums, figs, pears, dates, etc.)
  • Cheese, either hard or soft
  • Watered-down wine

Much like today, breakfast wasn’t always eaten sitting down at home. Men leaving for work or boys going to school could grab a small meal at one of the many bakeries, cheesemongers, or popinae as they would pass through the forum. The food could then be eaten while walking, carried in the folds (sinus) of the toga, or stuffed in a leather satchel (loculus).

In the future, I hope to recreate and write more in depth about the other Roman meals, so stay tuned! But for the time being, take a look at this post for an overview of how the ancients dined.

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