UB students dine as the Romans did

Apr 7, 2014

University at Buffalo students attended a special event Sunday night, one that encouraged them to immerse themselves in the food, traditions and clothing of a legendary culture.

It was Eat Like A Roman night in Red Jacket Quad's Crossroads Culinary Center. There wasn't a final count, but managers were expecting up to 2,000 diners for Roman pasta.

A cook prepares part of the Roman feast.
Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO News

It's a difficult menu to prepare since only one cookbook from ancient Rome has survived, along with a few recipes in other books and plays.

Crossroads General Manager Lauren Brantley says there had to be some changes to accommodate the vegetarian views of many students and restrictions on liquor which flowed freely at Roman parties.

For the event, Brantley was Julia Domna in Roman garb.

"We have Parthian chicken which is really delicious. We made a rustic pasta dish which is a little different because they didn't have pasta back then, so we kind of put a little twist on it. We have cinnamon lamb broth. We have a baked ham and figs. We have different dips and spreads, butter beans, just a variety. Sesame-honey pizza which is a flatbread type of pizza. They had a lot of flatbreads," Brantley said.

Students came in through displays of Roman weapons met by costumed greeters with togas and tunics and a staff mostly wearing Roman gear, even in the kitchen.

Classics Department Chair Neil Coffee says events like this are good for his cadre of classics majors and grad students and many university students from many backgrounds and many places know something of the Roman Empire.

"There's a course on campus called World Civilizations so all students are introduced to a variety of civilizations over time in history. In that place, I think, they all get introduced to Roman culture and many of them do get interested in Roman history. We have great classes on warfare in the ancient world. We have great classes on mythology. We have great classes on ancient religions, languages and literature of antiquity," Coffee said.

Cooks say they really got into the event, preparing foods somewhat different from the usual even in a dining area which likes to stage events to gain student attention.