Then and Now … A book review

By Franz Scheurer


Would you like precise instruction how to make Vermouth or rather nibble on some lobster croquettes or may be slurp a quenelle of brains cooked in a clarified veal broth? This wonderful cookbook covers most of the “in” dishes and then some!


Goats cheese soufflé? Old hat!

A vegetable timbale? Been there, done that!

Something sweet like Elderberry custard…

Something savoury like a stuffed suckling pig served on a bed of soft polenta? Positively old fashioned!

French toast? Not again!

Stuffed chicken with porcini mushrooms? How gauche!

Ostrich stew?

Gazelle Hot Pot?

Barbecued crane leg or roasted flamingo?

You’re kidding, right?

Nope… not where this cookbook comes from!


I am of course talking about the ten books of Apicius.  The “APICIUS - Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome” edited and translated by Joseph Dommers Vehling, is the first English translation of “Apicius de re Coquinaria”, the oldest known cookbook in existence. It is also one of the few translations of this original Roman cookbook prepared by a professional chef. Joseph Vehling’s brilliant translation, extended introduction and full and helpful commentary combine to bring you a clear picture of what foods the Romans ate, how they prepared them and the highly developed state of the culinary art in Imperial Rome. There are recipes for cooking fish, seafood, game, chicken, pork, veal and other domesticated animals and birds. Recipes for vegetable dishes, grains, beverages, sauces, virtually the full range of cookery is covered. There are methods for preserving foods, revitalising them, even adulterating them. Some of the recipes are strikingly modern; others use ingredients and methods that have long since disappeared. This book was originally written for professional cooks working in Rome. The book contains the recipes from the ten remaining books, complete with notes and explanations of ingredients, cooking methods and cooking vessels. It is an absolutely amazing read, an inspiration and proof that nothing is really new. I thoroughly recommend this book to every serious cook out there.


Dover Publications INC

New York

ISBN 0-486-23563-7


There is also an original Latin version and a German translation available.

Das Römische Kochbuch des Aspicius

Edited and translated by Robert Meier and published by Phillipp Reclam jun. GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany.

ISBN 3-15-008710-4