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The volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE gives us evidence of the varied and healthful diet of first-century Roman commoners. Human waste found preserved in the drains of Pompeii’s latrines (for more on latrines see my blog of January 24, 2017) and cesspits and food scraps from behind the standard food sellers’ kitchens reveal that they ate a Mediterranean diet consisting of lentils, olives, nuts, and fish as well as odd scraps of salted meat. Moreover, traces of spices imported from Far East Asia were also found.

And so, in THE DEADLIEST LIE, Miriam describes the hors d'oeuvres she served with a sampling of wine before the Sabbath meal: stuffed olives, boiled eggs, and candied almonds. Inasmuch as the meal itself was a festive occasion, the foods were more elaborate but not unusual: first roast duck stuffed with figs and chestnuts glazed with a cherry sauce, and accompanied by asparagus in a mustard vinaigrette. Later grilled lamb with rice balls rolled in mint extract was brought out while she kept the cinnamon tea and sesame cakes topped with currants and dates warm for dessert.

By contrast, researchers found in the drains near the elite restaurants of Pompeii such exotic fare as the remains of shellfish, sea urchins, and even a giraffe’s leg.

THE DEADLIEST LIE is foremost a mystery, but the Historical Novel Society praises its authentic historical detail as “finely crafted and fascinating.” To learn more, click here.

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