Roman culture is considered a juggernaut of the Ancient World. We previously touched on the Persian Empire and Greeks, and how their massive trades shaped the ingredients present during their time. The Romans, took this to new levels. This week, we’ll capture it in a dish of Roman Chicken Legs and Libum (An Ancient Roman cheese bread).
Let’s talk about Ancient Rome
The Roman culture started in 625 BCE, with their origins coming from the Latium and Etruscan peoples. Between its start and 510 BCE, Rome speed-ran into becoming the force we think of, with the transition from kings to a Republic. It stayed a republic until 31 BCE, until it became an empire, where Augustus became the first Roman Emperor; after his uncle, Julius Caesar’s assassination and consequential war with Egypt, against Marc Anthony and Cleopatra.
Often, we look back to Roman history in a romantic sense, between the epic battles, the glorious arts and people involved and we forget that they were people living lives similar to ourselves. They had families, they ate, they had customs and hobbies, just the same. They also had bloody revolutions, crazed emperors and constant infighting/individuals who attempted to take over due to the breakdown of their stability.
This is one of the reasons why the Roman Empire is so well-documented, researched and studied. Everyone loves a good story.
Getting into the brass tax of this week’s recipe, we need to talk about the ingredients available. As we mentioned in the podcast this week, we have the luxury of many other bloggers, museums, researchers compiling recipes long before we were even born. However, we also had the difficulty of digging through piles of inaccurate (albeit, impossible) ingredients in these recipes.
Even our favorite Museum in the world (Because, Kansas City), struggled with this. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, had an exhibit from May 2014, focusing on Roman art, provided these amazing little recipe cards explaining how to make some of the recipes depicted in Frescos and mosaics. The one in question is for Libum, the cheese bread mentioned above. The method of cooking it, the use of all-purpose flour (which is bleached and wasn’t available until 1906), using cottage cheese (1831 origin) and cooked in a manner which doesn’t match what we know they looked like (One cake pan vs. buns).
With this, it took additional research to make sure we were more accurate. Using Spelt flour instead of others, ricotta instead of cottage cheese, and making sure spices used were present (One recipe wanted allspice instead of pepper, ignoring that Romans had access to pepper and Allspice being an Americas-only spice).
Overall, we can’t fault these recipes. They are attempting to be accessible and provide some of the best flavor possible. But, what is our unofficial slogan – Sometimes history isn’t tasty. However, this week’s recipe is.
4 out of 5 stars
I loved the chicken. It was tender, flavorful and was a knock-out. I wish I could have grilled the chicken instead of oven baking it though, along with an overnight marinade. It would have made the flavors bolder and would have made the skin crunchier. The Libum was fine, but I found I couldn’t eat more than one bun due to how dense it was; even with the honey.
3.5 out of 5 stars
The chicken legs where amazing! The herbs that were used made it smell delicious even before we cooked the legs. And after we cooked them, the herbs gave a flavour that I can’t quite explain. You have to try it yourself to understand. The cheese bread rolls, left something to be desired. But Meghan had the amazing idea to drizzle honey on them and they definitely became better. But they were so dense and filling; that eating one was more than enough. The chicken was what made the meal.