An Abbreviated History of The Roman Empire

Some culinary craftsmanship had taken a long time to develop-about 1,500 years. It began with the Romans-but not with the Romans that most people think of, a nation addicted to sumptuous banquets and unbridled orgies. This notion is made to order for wide-screen motion pictures in Flamboyant-Color, and the Hollywood and Italian moviemakers have not failed to exploit it.

In Imperial times, we have been told, exotic eating was the rule. Like most gross exaggerations, this one contains an element of truth. From Petronius, Juvenal, Lucian, Martial and other Roman writers we learn that peacocks, flamingos and herons were in fact served with their full plumage carefully replaced after cooking; that wolves, hedgehogs and puppies were considered choice eating; that dormice-small rodents resembling squirrels-were confined in barrels to keep them from exercising and were force-fed to obesity for the table.

From The Cooking of Italy by Waverly Root et al.