‘Food for Thought’ at the East Oxford Community Classics Centre – 08.09.2014

This week we were delighted to present a guest workshop for the East Oxford Community Classics Centre as part of their Ancient Roman Cookery Project: http://www.eoccc.org.uk/ancient-cookery-project

The workshop participants involved students at Cheney School in Oxford. There was lots of interest in the event, so we had 15 Year 8 Design and Technology students, who had little prior knowledge of the ancient world, and 19 GCSE Latin students. After giving the group a short talk about sources of evidence for food in the Roman world, we had a Roman pottery handling session. Each small group of 4-5 students was given a sherd of Roman pottery and asked to think about what its shape, size, colour and material might suggest about the original function of the pot. The students did really well in this task and paid a lot of attention the to details – I was particularly impressed by the groups who correctly worked out that their sherds were part of Roman grinding bowls (‘mortaria’).

Some of the pottery recording sheets from the workshop.

Some of the pottery recording sheets from the workshop.

 

A sherd from a Roman grinding bowl ('mortarium'). The inside is covered in small pieces of quartz to create a rough surface for grinding, just like in a mortar and pestle today.

A sherd from a Roman grinding bowl (‘mortarium’). The inside is covered in small pieces of quartz to create a rough surface for grinding, just like in a mortar and pestle today.

Following this, we then had a quiz about what foods were imported by the Romans into Britain, what foods were the most expensive in the Roman world and what foods were not part of a Roman diet. The idea that apples were not native to Britain caused quite a stir in the room, as did the fact that many things that we associate with a ‘Mediterranean diet’ (tomatoes, peppers etc) were not even known to the Romans.

There was lots of enthusiasm in the room, so I am sure the project will be a great success and I look forward to hearing how it progresses!

 

If you are interested in holding a class on Roman food and would like some ideas or resources, please contact us via Twitter, Facebook or email for more information:

https://twitter.com/NotJustDormice

https://www.facebook.com/RomanFoodsForThought

Zena.Kamash@rhul.ac.uk

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