We kicked off our back-to-school hands on projects with a Roman Feast this week. We ended the school year studying Ancient Rome and picked up where we left off with a look at how the Roman Empire fell.
Things are crazy busy right now, so I wanted to keep this feast simple. I managed to pull it off without much planning at all, using ingredients I already had in the house. Of course, we recycled the sheets used in our Egyptian Feast and our Greek Feast to make Roman tunics. I simply cut some sheets from Goodwill in half and cut a hole for their head and two holes for arms…voila, instant (if not perfectly authentic) Greek chitons. These also served as our Roman tunics. If you start with the Egyptian Feast you can use the same sheets for all 3 costumes, and I found that a couple of large sheets were enough to serve the entire family with some judicious cutting.
I used tablecloths, sheets and (for my little guy) a table runner to make the togas that drape over their shoulders. I wore a tablecloth also, as a simple cloak.
We set up our Triclinium table again using the leaves from our dining room and kitchen tables and surrounding them with couch cushions. I learned a lesson during our Greek Feast and covered the cushions with bedsheets this time, in case of spills!
For dinner, I decided to serve a mix of some traditional foods of Ancient Rome that we still eat today, as well as some fun “make-believe” dishes which the Romans ate but we would never touch. We pretended to be wealthy so that we could enjoy several different dishes.
The boys thought it was pretty fun to eat Roasted Doormice (chicken legs) and Peacock Nuggets (Anytizers cordon blue nuggets). We learned that the Ancient Romans liked Omelets with honey, so we tried that, too. Side dishes included bread, grapes, olives, nuts, apples and salad. I did not make a dessert for this meal, though the Romans did eat desserts at their feasts.
I recommend waiting until near the end of the feast to inform boys that belching was considered polite at Roman feasts.
This meal did not take any more time than a normal dinner would have, aside from the few minutes spent setting up the Triclinium table and getting the costumes together. The side dishes were very fast and simple, and I made the omelet quickly on the stovetop as the chicken legs finished cooking.
I found some interesting notes about Roman cooking, including this chicken recipe, here. The people who wrote this site took their recipes from an old Roman cookbook, which was written by a Roman gourmet named Apicius in the 1st century and added to over time. Eventually an editor published this cookbook in the 4th century and titled it after Apicius. Much of what we know about Roman cooking seems to be taken from this record.
Here are the recipes I used:
Roasted Doormice (aka Baked Chicken Legs)
Put the following ingredients in a large ziploc bag:
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp caraway seed
Dredge the chicken legs in a dish of milk and then shake in the flour mixture. Double quantities if you are using a large number of chicken legs. Place on a baking pan and brush with olive oil. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until done.
My family did like this recipe, but felt it could have used more spices. This is just a guideline, as no measurements were given and I just “eyeballed” the quantities.
I used Anytizer chicken nuggets and called them Peacock nuggets. You could make similar substitutions for exotic foods like ostrich and flamingo.
For our simple salad I tore Romaine lettuce leaves and topped them with black olives, red onion and some feta cheese. Romans did NOT use tomatoes, so neither did we. I like to top a simple salad like this one with some dry Good Seasons Italian dressing, just sprinkled over the top, and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. For other occasions, add red or yellow pepper strips, tomatoes, and sundried-tomato flavored feta cheese. Everyone seems to love this simple, delicious salad.
Omelet with Black Pepper and Honey
The Roman omelet recipe I used called for adding both milk and a bit of olive oil to the eggs before cooking the omelet. I don’t usually add oil to omelets, but “when in Rome!” When the omelet was finished I topped it with some fresh ground black pepper, as the recipe instructed. Mushrooms were also called for, but my family hates them so I left those out. The recipe said to serve the omelet with honey. Our four year old was the first to taste it and he loved it! I tried it, too, and it reminded me of egg custard…not unpleasant at all!
I was keeping things simple so I did not make slushies, but you could. I read that sometimes slaves were sent into the mountains to bring back fresh snow for slushies. If you have a snowcone maker this would be a fun addition to your feast!