De re coquinaria

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De re coquinaria is the oldest known cookbook, dating from the 3rd century A.D., still in existence. Probably partly based on one written by a famous 1st century gourmet named Apicius at the court of Tiberius, it seems to be a compilation of recipes from other leading chefs of the ancient world.

The foods described in the book are important for reconstructing the dietary habits of the ancient world around the Mediterranean basin, since many of the foods identified with that region today—tomatoes, pasta—were not available in Antiquity. On the other hand, the recipes are geared for the wealthiest classes and contain what were exotic ingredients at that time, e.g. flamingo tongues. According to Seneca, Apicius himself committed suicide because, having spent so much of his fortune on food, he realized he could not afford to continue dining in the manner to which he was accustomed.

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