Apicius, De Re Coquinaria is a selection of Roman recipes, probably compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century AD and written in a language closer to popular Latin than to Classical Latin.
The name "Apicius" had long been associated with excessively refined love of food, from the habits of an early bearer of the name, Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet and lover of refined luxury who lived sometime in the 1st century AD. He is sometimes erroneously asserted to be the author of the book that is attributed to him.
The De Re Coquinaria is a text for the kitchen. The title means “On the Subject of Cooking" and its compilation is attributed to an otherwise unknown Caelius Apicius, an invention based on the fact that one of the two manuscripts is headed with the words "API CAE”.
In fact, only two manuscript copies of the Apicius De Re Coquinaria are known to exist today: the Vatican Apicius and the Fulda Apicius (nowadays at the New York Academy of Medicine).
While the Fulda manuscript is composed of text only (though, interestingly enough, of seven different hands), the Vatican Apicius is an illuminated manuscript probably made for a high ranked person of the time.
The Vatican Apicius, now Urb. Lat. 1146 at the Vatican Library, was penned and illuminated in St. Martin of Tours (France) in the 9th century, under Abbot Vivian (844-851 AD). Bernard Bischoff, the noted German historian and paleographer, believed that the manuscript was produced as a gift for Charles the Bald.
The texts compiled in the Vatican De Re Coquinaria are probably originating from approx. 385 AD thanks to the work of a compiler not very expert in cooking, but with knowledge in medicine.
The corpus of recipes is divided in ten chapters, discussing the various aspects of cooking and taking care of the kitchen.
- Epimeles — The Careful Housekeeper
- Sarcoptes — The Meat Mincer
- Cepuros — The Gardener
- Pandecter — Many Ingredients
- Ospreon — Pulse
- Aeropetes — Birds
- Polyteles — The Gourmet
- Tetrapus — The Quadruped
- Thalassa — The Sea
- Halieus — The Fisherman
The manuscript, before reaching the Vatican Library, was in Bologna in 1464 and then in the collection of the Montefeltro dukes, in Urbino. Angelo Poliziano, the famous Italian classical scholar, asked the Montefeltro to consult the Apicius in order to collate his own collection of Apicius recipes. In 1658, the Apicius was included in the collection of the Vatican Library under the Urbinati Latini manuscript group.
A sample recipe from Book II (courtesy of Celtnet):
Isicia de lolligine: sublatis crinibus in fulmento tundes, sicuti adsolet. Pulpa et in mortario et in liquamine diligenter fricatur, et exinde isicia plassantur.
Squid Forcemeats: Remove the tentacles and pound on the chopping board as usual. Place the flesh in a mortar and diligently pound with fish sauce. After that form into balls.
Plain leather binding