Wednesday, February 24, 2016

An ancient French restaurant and Passover

DINING OUT: Earliest Roman Restaurant Found in France: Night Life Featured Heavy Drinking. Tavern more than 2,100 years old featured same taboon oven used in Middle East today, and evidence of a Romanization process similar to what happened in ancient Israel (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
An ancient tavern believed to be more then 2,100 years old has been found in the town of Lattes, southern France, making it the oldest Roman restaurant found in the Mediterranean. They also found evidence that while Romanization changed the locals' dining habits, it didn't do much for the cuisine.

Evidently some things never change, though. The excavators in the town of Lattes found indoor gristmills and ovens for baking pita, each about one meter across. This oven, called a tabouna or taboon, is still used throughout the Middle East and Israel.

The article is interesting in itself for the history of dining out in the ancient Roman world, but it also introduces an ancient Jewish angle as an aside:
Emulating the Romans on Passover

The Celtic town of Lattara provide clues about Roman society - and also insights about how people in the provinces became Romanized.

“We do have interesting evidence of new changes in dining at Lattara, which seem to reflect more influence of Roman dining practices,” says Luley.

One is the existence of triclinium – a couch big enough to accommodate three, on which Romans typically dined while reclining.  In addition, the presence of the terra sigillata clayware in the late first century BCE suggests new practices, namely a new "fussy" emphasis on very small plates, cups, and goblets. Those would be ideal for diners who are reclining and drinking with one hand while taking food from small plates with the other hand, explain the archaeologists.

A similar assimilation of Roman customs occurred in Judaea during Roman rule. “The finds are interesting mainly for the a glimpse into the interaction process between the local Celtic population and the Romans,” says Guy Stiebel of Tel Aviv University. "The study of the material culture allows us to illustrate the process of cultural changes. One very important test case is food consumption, that is, not only what you eat and drink, but where and how you do it. In a somewhat similar manner to what we see in the French site, Judaism adopted Greco-Roman customs and incorporated it in religious traditions such as Pesach. Reclining together, eating and drinking  followed the symposia,” Stiebel says to Haaretz.