Culture: Eating Utensils and Dishes

Romans did not use forks when they were eating their food. Instead, they used their hands, spoons, and knifes. Eating with your hands in ancient Rome would have been more likely because utensils were very expensive. Most spoons and knifes were made from bronze which was expensive to the average citizen. Because of their limited eating utensils, mainly the dinner fork, most of ancient Roman foods were cooked or cut in small pieces. This was known as finger foods as this was the preferred method of eating. Forks did not appear in Roman society until the 4th century where it became a common utensil of choice. Spoons were used for sauces, porridges, and soups as fingers would not be an appropriate eating utensils for these items.

Plates and dishes were made from wood or pottery for the common folk. While the wealthy citizens of Rome ate with metal plates made of tin, bronze, and pewter. Many of these eating dishes were decorated with fancy images of foods found around ancient Rome.

Guests at ancient Roman parties also brought their own napkins called a mappa because they could bring food home after eating all night long. Once they took their food home in their napkin, it was called a mappae. It is believed this is where doggy bags were invented around the 6th century BC.

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