Ancient Pesto (Moretum)

Moretum is a delicious spread similar to modern pesto.

 Photo by The Curated Feast of 26th Ave Bread (Evan Lohr)

Photo by The Curated Feast of 26th Ave Bread (Evan Lohr)

The Roman poet Virgil was apparently a big fan of ancient pesto. The word “moretum” is Latin and is usually translated as “salad,” but moretum isn't a salad at all. At least, it's not what we think of as salad, today. Instead it is more of a dip.

In the poem “Moretum," Virgil tells the story of Symilus, a peasant farmer, who is making his morning meal. He first makes the bread, but decides to make an accompaniment for it. Virgil then describes the process by which Symilus makes his moretum.

Pass the Garum, an ancient Roman food blog, offers a summary:

  • Symilus gathers four heads of garlic, celery, parsley, rue, and coriander seeds.
  • He grinds the garlic in his mortar and pestle, and adds salt and cheese.
  • He then adds the celery, rue, parsley, and coriander seeds. The smell is so strong that it makes his eyes water.
  • He adds some olive oil, finishes off the mixture, and slaps some on his freshly baked bread.

For the recipe click here for the version on Delish. And the poem itself is certainly worth reading—if for nothing else than little bits like this one:

"When home he used to come with shoulder light
But pocket heavy, scarcely ever did
He with him bring the city markets' meat.
The ruddy onion, and a bed of leek
-For cutting, hunger doth for him subdue-,
And cress which screws one's face with acrid bite,
And endive, and the colewort which recalls
The lagging wish for sexual delights."

Virgil

 Photo by The Curated Feast of 26th Ave Bread (Evan Lohr)

Photo by The Curated Feast of 26th Ave Bread (Evan Lohr)

 Photo by The Curated Feast of 26th Ave Bread (Evan Lohr)

Photo by The Curated Feast of 26th Ave Bread (Evan Lohr)

Liz PearComment