Meals[edit source | edit]
Traditionally in the morning, a breakfast called the jentaculum was served at dawn. At around 11:00 am, Romans ate a small lunch, and in the evening, they consumed the cena, the main meal of the day. Due to the influence of the Greeks and the increase importation and consumption of foreign foods, the cena increased in the size of the portion and diversity and was consumed in the afternoon. The vesperna, a light supper in the evening, was abandoned, and a second breakfast was introduced around noon, the prandium.
In the lower strata of society, the old routine was preserved, because it corresponded more closely to the daily rhythms of manual labor.
Originally flat, round loaves made of emmer (a cereal grain closely related to wheat) with a bit of salt were eaten; among the upper classes, eggs, cheese, and honey, along with milk and fruit were also consumed. In the Imperial period, around the beginning of the Christian era, bread made of wheat was introduced; with time, more and more wheaten foods began to replace emmer bread. The bread was sometimes dipped in wine and eaten with olives, cheese, crackers, and grapes. They also ate wild boar, beef, sausages, pork, lamb, duck, goose, chickens, small birds, fish, and shellfish.
Cena[edit source | edit]
Among the members of the upper classes, who did not engage in manual labor, it became customary to schedule all business obligations in the morning. After the prandium, the last responsibilities would be discharged, and a visit would be made to the baths. Around 2 p.m., the cena would begin. This meal could last until late in the night, especially if guests were invited, and would often be followed by a comissatio (a round of drinks).
In the period of the kings and the early republic, but also in later periods (for the working classes), the cena essentially consisted of a kind of porridge, the puls. The simplest kind would be made from emmer, water, salt and fat. The more sophisticated kind was made with olive oil, with an accompaniment of assorted vegetables when available. The richer classes ate their puls with eggs, cheese, and honey and it was also occasionally served with meat or fish.
Over the course of the Republican period, the cena developed into 2 courses: a main course and a dessert with fruit and seafood (e.g. molluscs, shrimp). By the end of the Republic, it was usual for the meal to be served in 3 parts: 1st course (gustatio), main course (primae mensae), and dessert (secundae mensae).