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Marcus Gavius Apicius (Apicius)

Marcus Gavius Apicius (Apicius)

First Century c.e.



Exotic Foods and Culinary Arts. Apicius lived during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius. Not much is known about him, except that he was proverbially associated with exotic foods and the culinary arts. Although the book De re coquinaria is attributed to Apicius, it is more likely to be a collection of recipes compiled well after his death. In any case, the recipes are little more than lists of ingredients without specific measures or exact cooking instructions. In spite of the shortcomings of De re coquinaria when compared to modern cookbooks, the dishes it describes provide valuable insight concerning the Roman diet during the early Empire. Melon, goose liver, and oysters all appear as appetizers on the Roman menu, much as they might today. However, some dishes go beyond what modern dining practices include. In addition to the less-surprising items such as anchovies, chicken, and pig, one finds peacock tongue, camel heels, and sow’s udder. Apicius is also credited with being the first to serve what the French call foie gras —the livers of geese that had been force-fed on figs.


laria Gozzini Giacosa, A Taste of Ancient Rome, translated by Anna Herklotz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

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