The Italian Almanac

ancient kitchen

Italian News - May 26

Sauces made from fermented fish entrails. A quiche-like pastry shell filled with bay leaves and ricotta cheese. For dessert, peaches with aromatic cumin and honey. Those tastes may not be for everyone's palate, but the specialties of ancient Pompeii are being revived for a month at the site of the ruins by a research project intended to give new insights into how the Romans lived.

Pompeii's busiest restaurant was buried with the rest of the prosperous city when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. The eruption killed thousands of people, but a 20-foot-deep cocoon of volcanic ash kept the city almost intact, providing precious information on domestic life in the ancient world.

Researchers have tried to revive the city's food by replanting -- in the restaurant's garden and in other open spaces -- the fruits and vegetables that were part of the Roman diet: figs and olives, plums and grapes, as well as poppy, broom (a flowery bush), bramble (a prickly shrub), and mallow (an herb).

Kits with the ingredients will be sold to visitors in the area around the restaurant with instructions on how to cook Roman specialties. Although there will be no cooking on the site, visitors will be directed to a local restaurant where some of the ancient specials will be offered.