Let's Cook History -- in five parts
June 8, 2018 9:28 PM   Subscribe

I found this 5-part series Let's Cook History, which is just short of an hour each episode exploring cooking in different eras. You might start with the first episode (perhaps misnamed for $REASONS) The Roman Banquet. posted by hippybear (18 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
strange staples, such as a fish intestine sauce that was the Roman equivalent of ketchup

A recipe for garum, if that sounds good to you.....
posted by thelonius at 10:16 PM on June 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have a Roman cookbook based on Apicius. Garum sounds gross if you describe how it’s made, but in practice it’s not any weirder than any other fish sauce. If I’m remembering right, it’s actually pretty mild in flavor compared to some fish sauces out there.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:03 PM on June 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


Is that--- Oh, yes it is. The Roman banquet documentary that starts with a procession into a circus (!) of people carrying the Capitoline Wolf on their shoulders: a medieval sculpture, with the Renaissance-made babies underneath and all. Later on after much breathlessly reporting of the banal (I'm still boggling about how the documentary presents Romans making sausages out of minced meat and organs, but I grew up with fried morcilla for dinner) they quote from the famous Trimalchio chapters of the Satyricon as if it was straight description instead of Petronius making fun of the pretensions of a fictional nouveau-rich ex-slave for his aristocratic patrons. That's like thinking Zoolander is a realistic look at the world of fashion.

I hope the later documentaries are better, but the Roman one is frankly bad and I ignored the rest of the series.
posted by sukeban at 11:08 PM on June 8, 2018 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the Roman documentary was baaad... Speaking as a person who has actually helped cook a Roman banquet they got stuff so wrong. Ancient Roman food is pretty tasty and with modern equipment easy to do. Garum and all of its sub-classes like muria very much resembles SE Asian fish sauces.

If you want to watch historic cooking then here is a playlist for the 1700-1800s: here
posted by jadepearl at 3:20 AM on June 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


Garum was putrid fish guts, which Romans poured over all their food. I'm curious, because they apparently used it all the time on everything, but at the same time it just sounds like the worst idea ever.
posted by xammerboy at 5:14 AM on June 9, 2018


Garum was putrid fish guts

Like cheese is putrid milk and beer is rotten grain. Seriously. You know there are fermented anchovies in Worcestershire sauce, right?
posted by sukeban at 5:27 AM on June 9, 2018 [17 favorites]


Garum isn't that big of a deal, honestly. Worcestershire Sauce is fermented anchovies (with other flavorings) and we use that all the time!
posted by headspace at 5:29 AM on June 9, 2018


Ahhh, sukeban beat me to the anchovy!
posted by headspace at 5:30 AM on June 9, 2018


By the way, Italians still make a descendant of garum, colatura di Alici.
posted by sukeban at 5:33 AM on June 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


Garum was putrid fish guts
Reducing garum to just calling it putrid fish guts is not exactly fair, even if it's technically accurate. It may not be Food Babe's "chemicals in eeeveeeryyythiiing!!!" bad, but it's certainly a scare-through-disgust description rather than a reasonable look at the stuff.

Like cheese is putrid milk and beer is rotten grain.
Strangely, the first example I thought of as I wrote the above was kimchi. I like your examples better.
posted by mystyk at 5:36 AM on June 9, 2018


The Renaissance episode talks about the ubiquity of sugar during that period. It seems sugar was the garum of that era.
posted by hippybear at 5:38 AM on June 9, 2018


If you'd like to watch programs about historical cooking and related cultural practices, the Giles Coren-Sue Perkins "The Supersizers Go.." is very enjoyable, and it didn't even make me want to kill Coren, which is saying a lot.
posted by briank at 5:57 AM on June 9, 2018 [12 favorites]


Yeah, that Roman documentary lost my attention when they indicated Romans ate reclining on the left elbow and eating only with the right hand, then immediately went to a closeup of a woman (in yellow) reclining on her right elbow and eating with her left hand. It's almost like the right hand didn't know what the left hand was up to!
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:02 AM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


That's like thinking Zoolander is a realistic look at the world of fashion.

I mean...
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:09 AM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


English Heritage's YouTube channel has a number of very charming Victorian cooking episodes that recreate the recipes of Avis Crocombe, the cook at Audley End House in the 1880s.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:49 AM on June 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


Like cheese is putrid milk and beer is rotten grain. Seriously. You know there are fermented anchovies in Worcestershire sauce, right?

No, not like that. Fermenting breaks down sugars. Rotting breaks down proteins. Anyway, Wikipedia says Garum was created through a fermenting process involving salting, so my understanding (that came from a different television show actually) that Garum was simply rotten is wrong. I should have known better, since rotten meat would be poisonous.

There is another British show like this featuring comics dressing and eating the food of the times called "Supersizers...". It's interesting in that a lot of the episodes featured recent times like the 1940's - 80's and that food was stranger than what ancient people ate. I also love Stephen Shore's pictures of meals he ate from the 70's.
posted by xammerboy at 12:03 PM on June 9, 2018


"in practice it’s not any weirder than any other fish sauce"

Doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement.
posted by el io at 5:32 PM on June 9, 2018


seriously. If you like Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian food, you have eaten and enjoyed garum or the functional equivalent. It's delicious.

I mean, I keep Vietnamese fish sauce on the shelf partly because it's an awesome and indispensable cooking staple, and partly because it's a direct link to Roman-era Mediterranean cuisine. It's not gross, it's frickin' time travel in a bottle.
posted by mwhybark at 8:43 PM on June 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


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