The Roman Minute: Ancient Ham

Learn how to cook a picnic lunch like the Romans did. This video introduces you to an ancient cookbook and even includes a brief recipe for a nice picnic ham.


Salvete omnes, I'm Lindsey Scholl and welcome again to "The Roman Minute," where you can sample a little bit of Rome in around a minute. Today's topic is food. Most of us have an idea of what Romans today eat, but what did ancient Romans eat? If you're just thinking olives and bread, you're probably not giving them enough credit.

"Apicius" is the name of an ancient Roman gentleman who loved great food, but it's also the name of a collection of recipes compiled sometime in the late 4th century AD. Like most recipes, these seem to have been handed down through generations. Here's a recipe for a nice picnic ham. And I quote, "The ham should be braised with a good number of figs and some three laurel leaves; the skin is then pulled off and cut into square pieces; these are macerated with honey. Thereupon make dough crumbs of flour and oil, lay the dough over or around the ham, stud the top with the pieces of the skin so that they will be baked with the dough bake slowly and when done, retire from the oven and serve."

This magnificent book covers everything from how to be a good housekeeper to how to how to make a nice sea scorpion with turnips. So the next time you're feeling Mediterranean, try your hand at Apicius. You can find a translation of the cookbook at this website ( and others.

I'm Dr. Lindsey Scholl, bringing you "The Roman Minute" and wishing you Pax Christi.