Thursday, January 3, 2008

An Ancient Roman Dinner Party Idea

Did you know one of the great Roman rituals was to have a dinner party?

If a Roman held status in the community it was the accepted rule for the family to host regular dinner parties. Just as the Romans went to Roman baths to network and influence their local dignitaries, dinner parties in the home were another means to help further the career of the host. The Romans were truly class conscious - remember learning about the Plebeians and the Patricians?

In the old Roman days things were very much separated into male and female roles - so it was the wife's role to prepare every aspect of the dinner party since the husband had been at work all day. But it was the servants who worked the hardest during the entire afternoon gathering and preparing everything for the meal.

O.K. - who is lucky enough to have home help with cooking these days? We may have to cut a few corners but you can still have fun with a Roman Dinner Party idea.

Invite your guests over by sending them a photocopy of a world map with an arrow to Rome and date it the 9th century B.C. or use a parchment scroll with your text painted in ink then sealed with wax and tied with an elegant ribbon.

Ask guests to come dressed Toga and all! If you want to all out, check these on

Or as guests arrive you could adorn them with a white sheet each. Togas looked like a white sheet about nine yards long and were arranged very carefully, in a stylish way. Elaborate jewellery was also popular.

To create an atmosphere in your dining room display anything you have that is made of marble or mosaic or hang a mural as a back drop. Drape garlands of ivy or myrtle over tables or hanging overhead. Drape gold lame where it looks effective.

Imagine if you could create the appearance of columns. If you want to go all out you could arrange to hire some columns. These are sometimes used as props for weddings and the like and I've found these inexpensive columns on

The Romans ate at rectangular tables which were low to the ground and surrounded at three sides by low couches. The men would recline as they ate - the women would sit. But we can be equal these days! The tables would hold jugs of wine and bowls of fruit along with tepid water so the Romans could clean their hands between each course.

One thing to keep in mind with a Roman dinner party is that the appearance and flavour of the food had to be just right - they were meticulous with their presentation.

The meals were often served in Samian pottery for their elegant appearance so earthenware or some rustic looking pottery serving bowls and urns would look effective.

Imagine a crisp white table cloth scattered with red rose petals or a gold metal bird cage as a center piece.

The background music should be soft and gentle - the lyre was the most popular instrument as were flutes and harps. You get the drift.

The most widespread vegetables used to create meals of the day were made using broad beans, lentils and chick peas, lettuces, cabbages and leeks.

The available fruits at first were apples, pears, wild cherries, plums, grapes, walnuts, almonds and chestnuts. Also dates that were imported from north Africa.

In the Roman days the dinner was made up of three main courses just is as the case today but there could be many more created to impress the guests.. which is what the Roman dinner party was all about.

The first course, the starter, could consist of eggs prepared in many different ways. Also available to guests would be a selection of salads, vegetables, shellfish, snails or the Roman delicacy - roasted, stuffed dormice which are small rodents! Usually the dormice were stuffed with minced pork, pepper, pine kernels, and liquamen which was a fish sauce.

As for the main course, this would invariably consist of some meat dish like beef, lamb and pork - or fish. The thing to remember is that you can try to cook an authentic meal but you can also create what you think would look great and work. Like a large roasted chicken or meat served on a lovely platter set in the middle of the table and surrounded by succulent roasted vegetables.

For some authentic dishes try these websites:

The Ancient Roman Dishes Collection

Around The Roman Table

The dinner party would end with a dessert such as fruit, cake or pudding.

The Roman meal would take place over a few hours - they would take breaks between courses to allow each course to digest, to chat and to drink more wine.

Wine is a must - it was the beverage of the Roman world like it was with the Ancient Greeks. Mulsum was a very popular honeyed wine.

After the meal guests would assemble in a main room to listen to poetry being recited or for a reading from one the classics and then they would be given a tour of the mosaics and art works so as to further impress.

So there you have it. This is a fun idea and certainly something different for your next dinner party.

Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.

In the meantime you might like to visit my dinner party store.

The Hostess with the Mostess

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