Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Pompeian cooking platform & oven: a practical experiment

In early September 2010 I traveled to south England to visit Sally Grainger, Roman food historian and archaeologist, who had kindly invited me to see her own re-construction of a Roman cooking platform and oven.

You may be familiar with Sally's works The Classical Cookbook (with Andrew Dalby) and Cooking Apicius: Roman recipes for today. Both of these works required extensive research into the original Latin texts, which were then subjected to translation and finally the cooking expertise of trained chef Sally. Extensive research was also carried out in Pompeii and Herculaneum into the construction and use of cooking platforms and ovens prior to the building of one.

We decided that it might be useful to other researchers and those interested in the Roman world and Pompeii if we posted some pictures here of the construction and use of the cooking platform and oven. It was a very informative process for one who has seen the archaeological remains of these many times, but never actually seen a working platform and oven. We baked several loaves of natural yeast bread (sourdough) and a Roman recipe for a custard dessert. Judging by the results, while the technology is basic it is very much suited to the task.

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