If you went on a smell tour of the Roman Empire, you’d have to visit a garum factory. Garum is a fermented fish sauce made to enhance the flavor of food. Paula Lock (Being Human, 2016), a student at the University of Kent who made her own brew, refers to garum as the Roman “ketchup.”
The Romans allowed various fish and their innards to ferment for several months under the Mediterranean sun. Then they boiled the remains with oregano and loads of salt for about 20 minutes in a pot of water. Despite a smell that Paula says made her queasy, she filtered the steaming mixture until she was left with a light amber colored liquid, which she chilled. The sauce, she says, had a light, earthy fishy aroma with a background hint of herbs. The taste, she added, is fishy with an intense lingering hint of salt.
In my books, Miriam describes her festive Shabbat meals. Sure enough, in THE DEADLIEST SPORT, she mentions that at Amram’s house, she was served a filet of mackerel poached in garum.
You may not want to make garum—it’s simple enough, but it will smell up your kitchen for days—but you can more easily experience the smells and tastes of the Roman Empire by reading my books. Just click here: