Turns Out Burgers Were Also Popular in Ancient Rome

Enter the world of the isicia omentata

Roman ruins
Burgers then, burgers now.
Federico Scarionati/Unsplash

When you envision a burger, where do you picture it being eaten? It could be a backyard cookout or at a cozy bistro; it might be in a roadside diner or in your kitchen on a cold night. But the burger has always come off as a relatively recent culinary development; it’s hard to imagine, for instance, someone at the time of the Revolutionary War chomping down on one.

As it turns out, though, a forerunner of the modern hamburger has been around for longer than you might think. How much longer? Think “Et tu, Brute?” and “I am Spartacus!” for your temporal reference points. That’s right: the ancient Romans enjoyed a dish not far removed from the burgers of today.

This information comes from a new article (and video) at Ripley’s, in which a 1,500 year old recipe takes a bow in the modern era. This would be the isicia omentata, a dish involving minced meat, caul fat, bread soaked in wine, pepper and more.

The article describes this meal as “a rather delicious variation of the burger.” In the accompanying video, host Matt Mamula offers more historical context and ventures into the recipe’s more sublime and more offbeat elements. If you’re feeling daring, it certainly seems like something that could come together in a home kitchen with relative ease — a hearty meal that’s also a voyage into history.


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