When someone hires you to cater for a Roman orgy, explains Corky White, you should visit a library. That’s what she did, one day in the late 1970s, when a Harvard professor asked her to provide the food for an intimate gathering at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
White is now an anthropology professor at Boston University, specialising in people’s odd relationships with food. Back then, she was a caterer, specialising in much the same. “Often, this meant making dishes for the first time,” she says. “I took on every challenge, but a Roman orgy was a whole different kettle of fermented anchovy sauce.”
White consulted many old texts, leaning heavily on Apicius, a Roman recipe collection assembled during the late fourth or early fifth century…
So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.