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The Banqueting Hall

Written records from the ancient Greek and Roman periods focus on the types of foods eaten rather than menus for entire meals. There does exist, how- ever, a collection of recipes dating from approximately 42 B.C. to A.D. 37, titled Cookery and Dining in Ancient Rome. Concentrating on the dining customs of an- cient Rome, this collection of recipes includes familiar dishes such as Sole in White Wine and Asparagus, as well as a number of now unknown items such as Sea Scorpion with Turnips and Dasheens (a root vegetable). The origins of pop- ular twentieth-century food items are found in such recipes as Baian Seafood Stew, in which minced poached oysters, mussels, scallops, and sea nettles are combined with toasted nuts, rue, celery, pepper, coriander, cumin, raisin, wine, broth, reduced wine, and oil. This seafood stew is similar to the basic recipe for bouillabaisse, a staple of the modern cuisine of southern France.

Greek banqueting featured the hors d’oeuvre trolley, on which were served a number of dishes featuring small portions of different food items. Garlic (boiled and roasted), sea urchins, cockles, sturgeon, and sweet wine sop were among the dishes offered. A fifth-century Roman feast elaborated on this concept:

With a drink of heated wine with honey, to be followed by fresh eggs, quar- ters of beef, mutton, and pork, all highly seasoned with peppe , pickles, car- away, and poppy seeds, saffron, aromatic balsam, honey, and salt. There was also boar meat with a garniture of cooked apples, dee , roebuck, hare, and even urus, a wild buffalo. Everything was tasted, from grasshopper to os- trich, from dormouse to wild boar. The whole world was put to gastronom- ical use, by both soldiers and travellers. Guinea fowl and truffles were brought from Africa, and rabbits from Spain and pheasants from Greece and peacocks from Asia. The number of courses of the banquet gradually rose to twenty and more. A kind of herald announced the merits of such dishes as were worthy of special attention, and prolong the pleasures of the table. There must always be actors, singers, mimes, clowns, and everything that could add to the pleasure of people who had gathered for the sole purpose of being amused.1

., The Banqueting Hall

The roots of the modern banqueting menu are found in the medieval period of European history. The outline of thirteenth-century meal service followed these instructions for the serving of dishes set down by Bartholomaeus Anglicus, a Parisian professor of theology:

At feasts, first meat is prepared and arrayed, guests be called in togethe , forms and stools be set up in the hall, and tables, cloths, and towels be or- dained, disposed, and made ready. Guests be set with the lord in the chief place of the board before the guests wash their hands. First knives, spoons,


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