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Roman Main Course

Roman main courseThe main course, or primae mensai varied both in the number and elaboration of dishes. Roast and boiled meat, poultry, game or other meat delicacies would be served. No dish was complete without its highly flavoured and seasoned sauce.

Contrary to present day preference, the main object seemed to be to disguise the natural taste of food — possibly to conceal doubtful freshness, possibly to demonstrate the variety of costly spices available to the host. Sometimes so many ingredients were used in a sauce it was impossible to single out any one flavour. One Roman cook bitterly complained that some of his fellow cooks:

'When they season their dinners they don't use condiments for seasoning, but screech owls, which eat out the intestines of the guests alive'.

Apicius wrote at the end of one of his recipes for a particularly flavoursome sauce:

'No one at table will know what he is eating'.

These sauces were usually thickened with wheat flour or crumbled pastry. Honey was often incorporated into a 'sweet-sour' dish or sauce.

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