Roman CookingOriginally, Roman cooking was very similar to the Germanic: Grain mush and simple pea-, bean-, or lentil stew were the main source of nourishment, even for the richer Romans.
However, a salty sauce made from wilted fish was used in almost all of their dishes. (This sauce was also used in ancient Greece and even today a similar sauce is still common in South East Asia).
Roman pea soup, for example was seasoned with leek, coriander, cumin, pepper, lovage, dill, basil, fish sauce and wine.
After the conquering of the eastern Mediterranean countries the diet of the richer Romans became more Asian: Hot spices and sweet-and-sour sauces covered up the taste of the ingredients. Apicius, for example seasoned flamencos and parrots with pepper, lovage, celery, sesame, parsley, mint, onions, cloves, honey, wine, fish sauce, wine vinegar, olive oil, and must; or pork roast was seasoned with parsley, asafetida (bitter tasting), ginger, bayleaf, marjoram, cypergrass, kostwurz, tarragon, celery seeds, pepper, fish sauce, and olive oil.
If one could afford to, one would treat himself to fruit as a dessert, later even exotic fruits, which were imported from the most remote provinces of the Roman Empire.
Wine was usually watered down and sweetened with honey. The meal was consumed lying down. During a small feast there would usually be three or four canopies, each providing space for three guests to lie on, surrounding the table. They would eat using their fingers: In the kitchen the meals were already divided into small bites. Slaves would pass out water bowls and towels in between courses for the guests to clean their hands.
This was the lifestyle of the richer people; as far as the poorer citizens of Rome were concerned, they usually only had a single room in a multi-level building, and they were not allowed to cook in their room, in order to avoid fire risks to the building. Therefore, they would eat cold grain mush or they would go to a soup kitchen, which existed on every street corner.
By the way, tomatoes, potatoes, and corn were not yet known in Europe, they would be imported 1500 years later from the newly discovered America.