Oldest Cookbook in the World.


A Roman cookbook is the oldest testimony to food. Called the Apicius after Marcus Gavius Apicius, the famed epicure who flourished during the reign of Tiberius (early 1st century AD). The original name of the book was De Re Coquinaria (“The Art of Cooking”). Its original language is Vulgar Latin, a more commonly spoken form of Latin, not Classical Latin.

Apicius is a collection of Roman cookery recipes, usually thought to have been compiled in the 4th or early 5th century AD. It is organized in ten books, in an arrangement similar to that of a modern cookbook.

1. Epimeles — The Careful Housekeeper
2. Sarcoptes — The Meat Mincer
3. Cepuros — The Gardener
4. Pandecter — Many Ingredients
5. Ospreon — Pulse
6. Aeropetes — Birds
7. Polyteles — The Gourmet
8. Tetrapus — The Quadruped
9. Thalassa — The Sea
10. Halieus — The Fisherman

They include meats, vegetables, legumes, fowl, seafood and fish. The books are meant for experienced cook since there are no indications of quantities or proportions!
Over four hundred of these recipes include a sauce, invariably made with fermented fish sauce (garum). The preparation of most sauces began with spices and herbs, usually pepper, which often were combined with cumin, although it is sometimes difficult to determine whether they were to be fresh or dried, leaf or seed. Then, after being ground in a mortar, fruits (plums, dates, raisins) and nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts) were added (and often pounded as well) as well as liquids, including garum, water, stock, milk, honey, oil, vinegar, and wine, both plain and reduced. Thickening usually was by wheat starch but also included the yolks and whites of eggs, pounded dates, and steeped rice or the water in which the food had been boiled. Fish sauces tended to be particularly elaborate: boiled murena (likely eel), for example, called for pepper, dill, celery seed, coriander, dried mint, as well as pine nuts, honey, vinegar, wine, and oil.
The recipes were geared for the wealthiest gourmets since many ingredients were rare at that time.

The book was translated for the first time in 1852 into Italian and followed by two translations into German and French. Finally, in 1936 Vehling translated the book into English but his lack of mastery of Latin turned out a sometimes inaccurate translation. A few later and more reliable translations exist today. The name of the book is “Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome”.

Here is a sample recipe:


Put the pieces of meat into a pan.
Finely chop an onion and coriander, pound pepper, cumin, liquamen, oil and wine.
Cook, turn out into a shallow pan, and thicken with wheat starch.
If you use lamb you should add the contents of the mortar while the meat is still raw, if kid, add it while it is cooking.

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