Thursday, March 01, 2007

Apicius: Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome

This morning, I was pleased to find a $2 copy of Apicius' Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome in the Dover Edition. Classical Studies have long been an interest of mine, and Apicius provides a look into a rather unusual aspect of Roman life (hummingbird tongues, anyone?). To be sure, there was a difference between the eating habits of the patricians and the plebians. I suspect Apicius leans towards the former in his book of cookery. My interest in Ancient Rome has been rekindled recently as I've been watching HBO's series "Rome" on DVD (interesting series, with the usual liberties taken with known facts and chronology, but still fun).

Now, I'm aware that this particular edition has a bit of controversy. The translation was made in 1936, and the translator apparently had no problem diverging from the original text and making his own substitutions for ingredients. Probably not a big problem if you are actually trying to make these dishes in your kitchen and need some accessible ingredients, but I can see it bothering those (like me) who really want accuracy in translation. But $2 sure beats the $250 editions.

Dover Editions are treasures, especially if you can find them used and in good shape. My copy of Mayhew's London Labor and the London Poor that I mentioned in a previous entry is a very nice unabridged 4 volume edition. The down side is that they are often older translations in the public domain, many of which have been superseded by recent scholarship. The Wallis Budge books on Egyptology, for instance, are nice but irredeemably inaccurate. All would be forgiven if they would bring back Aurel Stein's Travels in Desert Cathay.

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