LETTUCE has a very long history stretching back to over 6,000 years to the time of the first known civilization who lived in what we know today as Southern Iraq. It was an everyday salad ingredient enjoyed by the ancient Greeks and Romans...
The name 'lettuce' is derived from the Latin word 'lattuca'.
Although mostly water, it contains useful amounts of many vitamins and minerals. As an added bonus, they are low in fat and give us a lot of fiber. From passages from Cato, an ancient Roman cookbook, we learn that in ancient times, ordinary poor Romans ate a healthy diet.
They would eat mostly wheat cereal grain, at all meals, as porridge, bread or pancake. For this the women engaged in a daily grain-to-flour grinding. They placed the hard kernels between a concave stone and a smaller one serving as a roller. To cook the porridge, they would soak the ground wheat in water overnight and boil. When done, they would add milk, honey and fresh cheese slowly; mix it thoroughly until it makes a thick cream.
For breakfast (called ‘jentaculum’), they would eat this porridge with salted bread (made from wheat flour), milk or wine, fresh or dried fruit and cheese. The Roman lunch (called ‘cibus meridianu’ or ‘prandium’), was a quick meal eaten around noon and would include salted bread, vegetables, salad (made from fresh lettuce, honey, salt and soured milk) fruits and cheese. The dinner (called ‘cena’), the main meal of the day, would be accompanied by wine, usually well-watered, porridge, pancake, vegetables, again salad (made from fresh lettuce) and fruits.
The Romans just loved eating lettuce. Just as today, salad courses appear in meals, so in ancient Rome, lettuce would be served first as an appetizer (called ‘gustatio’) and then later together with the meal itself. Apples when in season were a popular dessert (called ‘bellaria’) item. Other Roman dessert items were figs, dates, nuts, pears, grapes, cakes, cheese, and honey.
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