Biblical Archaeology Review 45:6, November/December 2019

Strata: BAR Test Kitchen: Parsnips: Back to Roman Roots

Parsnips are an underappreciated vegetable in the U.S. Depending on where you are, they can be difficult to track down, and many Americans have only a vague notion of what a parsnip actually is. In my opinion, though, they are delicious and well worth the hunt.

For this recipe, we turn to ancient Roman gourmand Apicius and his De Re Coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking). Apicius included an exotic spice in this dish—the peppercorn! When Egypt became a Roman province under Octavian (the future Roman emperor Augustus) in 30 B.C.E., the Romans opened up new Red Sea ports and improved trade with India. Spices (among other things) began pouring in, and the Romans could not get enough. Spices eventually became so common that people began pointing out when pepper was not used.1

Apicius’s recipe for parsnips is a simple but tasty one:

Sphondyli elixi ex sale, oleo, mero, coriandro viridi conciso et piper integro.

Boil the parsnips in salt water [and season them] with pure oil, chopped green coriander, and whole pepper.2

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