Crossroads Culinary Center hosts ancient Roman-themed dinner

On April 3, 2014

  • UB’s class on Roman culture studies a copy of the lone surviving Roman cookbook, according to professor Donald McGuire. The course has focused on Roman food, including Mortum, a garlic and cheese dip. Courtesy of Donald McGuire

Students can take a mental journey to Ancient Rome on Sunday evening as they dine on authentic Roman cuisine and the culture's décor surrounds them.

Campus Dining and Shops (CDS) is hosting an Ancient Rome-inspired dinner called "Eat Like a Roman," at which students will have the opportunity to learn about Roman food and society. The festivities will take place 5-8:30 p.m. at the Crossroads Culinary Center (C3).

The dining center will be fully decorated with props including a chariot and a giant fountain. Roman pottery and weaponry will also be dispersed among the food stations where students will be allowed to learn about the specific items, said Ray Kohl, marketing manager at CDS.

The idea for the event came from a one-credit class through the Undergraduate Academies. This class is centered on an authentic ancient Roman cookbook as students learn about the food of the culture. Donald McGuire, a classics adjunct associate professor, and his wife, classics professor Martha Malamud, teach the course.

"It's a nice little window into ancient Rome that people don't normally open," McGuire said.

The Latin club will be greeting guests in Latin to add to the atmosphere, and students are welcome to come dressed in Roman attire to join the costumed C3 staff and be a part of their costume contest. Costume prizes will be handed out as dining dollars.

McGuire believes Roman food may be the first "real fusion cuisine." The culture brings in aspects from Mesopotamia, Northern Europe, Northern Africa and other areas Rome conquered. The Roman people took the "flavors of the known world and [brought] them into their cooking," according to McGuire.

He describes the cuisine as "sophisticated," but also "earthy, solid food."

The course is a part of the Academies' Discovery Seminar program and meets bi-weekly together in a kitchen in Greiner Hall. The course involves aspects that may not be readily apparent, such as cooking materials and dining rooms that would be decorated according to different social classes.

"The markets of the Roman empire were as sophisticated as Whole Foods, Wegmans and all the sophisticated supermarkets of the 21st century," McGuire said.

McGuire was constantly looking to find ways to bring teaching out of the classroom, and after talking to Jeff Brady, the executive director of CDS, an experience combining food and historical education seemed appropriate.

The idea started to be organized into an actual event around last October.

"I hope that students enjoy thinking about a different civilization and thinking about how sophisticated they were," McGuire said.

Dorian Garrett, a junior English major, said the event sounds like a fun addition to the student experience and because it is on a Sunday, the dinner works well with student schedules.

"Everyone's relaxing, [it] seems like a good recreational activity," Garrett said.

There have been several themed dinners at C3 this year, most of them centering on food, but this event incorporates more aspects than that, according to Kohl. He said CDS is always open to suggestions for ideas.

"We are always looking for things that students are going to enjoy, what is interesting to them, what will peak the attendance up, really what will offer them a unique experience," Kohl said.

John Mckissick, a freshman computer science major, said it is important for the university to advertise events like these well, and he plans to attend.

McGuire said his personal favorite dish is a honey, sesame and feta cheese flatbread "pizza," which will be served on Sunday. He hopes students will see the classics department as a fun place to search for courses.

The dinner will be equivalent to one meal swipe.



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