Greece, Rome, and the Middle Ages

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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With the Greeks and Romans we begin to see the outlines of modern Western cuisine. The Greeks were fond of lettuce, and habitually ate fruit at the end of meals. Pepper from the Far East was in use around 500 BCE and quickly became the most popular spice of the ancient world. In Rome, lettuce was served at both the beginning and end of meals, and fruit as dessert. Thanks to the art of grafting growing shoots from desirable trees onto other trees, there were about 25 named apple varieties and 35 pears. Fruits were preserved whole by immersing them, stems and all, in honey, and the gastronome Apicius gave a recipe for pickled peaches. From the Roman recipes that survive, it would seem that few foods were served without the application of several strong flavors.