Saturday, January 5, 2008

Who Was Marcus Porcius?

Yep, that's him. Not exactly the Brad Pitt of ancient Rome, but he was still a man of considerable stature. Most readers of Roman history know Marcus Porcius by a different name: Cato.

In his book Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky writes that the Romans used "a great deal of salt" in the hams and other pork products they consumed:

Originally, hams and sausages were brought to Rome from the conquered northern empire. According to Strabo, the well-traveled first-century-B.C. Greek historian, the most prized ham in Rome came from the forests of Burgundy.

. . . But the Romans were importing ham from numerous Celtic regions, including Westphalia, which were dried, salted, and then smoked with unique local woods — a recipe still followed today in Westphalia — were very popular with Romans.

Cato, like many Romans, was a ham enthusiast. In fact, at a time when Romans often took family names from agriculture, Cato was called Marcus Porcius.
Cato, it turns out, was quite a "foodie." He not only wrote a recipe in the 2nd Century B.C. for curing a ham, but he also developed a recipe for preserving olives.

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