kitchen of lucius clemens house by matthias kabel

This very interesting kitchen is part of a restored house of a Roman nobleman, Lucius Maticeius Clemens, who lived in what is now Austria in the 300s (4th century A.D./C.E.). This house is now an open air museum and provides a very interesting glimpse of daily home life, at least among the wealthy, in late Roman times.

What’s interesting about this photo is how much the kitchen resembles other kitchens all throughout history and across cultures, at least up until the 20th century. There’s no fireplace visible but I suspect the photographer was standing in or near it–certainly there’s a large fireplace with racks where pots and spits can be hung for cooking food. Visible here you see on the left a shelf of dishes and earthenware vessels, and on the right a table with fresh ingredients and recent concoctions including bread. The line hanging at the rear of the room is for drying spices. I see lots of garlic, some grapes, various other herbs (thyme?) and a couple of brooms. The brooms are interesting–note the floor which is plain earth, cracked from age and heat, but it’s obviously been swept daily to form a sort of natural concrete. The barrels may contain water, olive oil or wine. The sacks at left probably contain flour.

The Romans knew how to eat well, and having conquered most of the Mediterranean world, all of Europe and much of North Africa was one vast pantry for grains, spices, fish, olives, wine and meats that wound up on Roman tables. Once you get past the lack of modern conveniences I would imagine cooking in this kitchen is surprisingly similar to cooking today. The basic principles of great food never change.

This photo is by Wikimedia Commons user Matthias Kabel and is used under GNU Free Documentation License.