The confusion that continues to be made between "food" and "gastronomy" is incredible. If the first, in fact, concerns the choice of raw materials with which to eat and the type of cooking to which they may be subjected in order to be able to consume them, the second concerns the rules and uses relating to the culinary art, and therefore not only the nutritional needs but everything revolves around the preparation of foods, their succession and their combination during lunch or dinner, the choice of drinks. In addition, of course, to the ritual of serving and distributing food to diners, the differences between the various meals of the day, the week and the annual calendar, and those between the daily table and banquets.
I refer in particular to the so-called "Etruscan cuisine”, A totally improper expression, although articles and, alas, some books have been published with this title. Without, however, mentioning the fact that the very few texts in the Etruscan language that have come down to us do not contain recipes of any kind, while the recipes themselves are indispensable for the correct reconstruction of a meal, whether it is rich or modest.
The only information on the subject can be deduced from the frescoes of some tombs - raw materials, cooks at work, banquet scenes, various types of utensils - or from the stuccoes of the Tomb of the Reliefs of Cerveteri which, combined with the grave goods of the dead, allow the reconstruction of a well equipped kitchen; or they have been handed down to us by Greek and Latin authors who rehearsed various aspects of the social life of this people, among other things bringing to excess the cliché of the soft, refined and supercharged Etruscan.
In his Stories, eg, Posidonium of Apamea (135-50 BC) narrates that, in addition to showing off silver cups, embroidered carpets and "a crowd of beautiful slaves adorned with sumptuous robes", the Etruscans "they set their tables twice a day". Slaves to the belly, (gastriduloi) therefore, these blameworthy individuals, they did two hearty meals throughout the day, while the Roman frugality of the good old days wanted us to sit at the table only in the evening, quickly feeding on our feet in the morning and at lunchtime.
A definition in line with more ancient notes of disapproval, based on the diversity between the customs of Greeks and Etruscans, especially as regards the participation of women in banquets. Hence, perhaps, also the stereotypes of pinguis Tyrrenus by Virgil and byEtruscus obesus of Catullus, more literary motifs than factual reality, corroborated by the numerous representations of Etruscan notables, who on their sarcophagi appeared, as well as adorned with jewels, obviously overweight. A way of portraying them, however, which perhaps aimed at emphasizing their rank: in ancient culture the "fatty" in fact designated the group of oligarchists (the pacheis of the Greek world, the "fat people" of our Middle Ages), and therefore the prominent belly could be a symbol of a social condition linked to wealth and power.
As for the prepared food, in the absence not only of an Apicius but of an Etruscan Pliny the Elder or an Etruscan Columella, we can rely, in addition to iconography, on a passage by Tito Livio which contains the list of food products (especially cereals of good quality) supplied in 204 BC by the Etruscan cities to Scipio for the expedition to Africa, and above all to the archaeological data.
If the discovery of the vessels that contained them confirmed the consumption of oil and wine and therefore the cultivation of olives and vines, archaeo-botany and archeozoology, i.e. the study of plant and animal remains from the excavated sites, have allowed us to draw a rather rich picture of the main foods of this people who are still mysterious in many ways. , which includes a surprisingly large array of cereals, legumes, berries, cultivated and wild fruits, as well as pigs, sheep and goats, poultry, to which are sometimes added hunted animals such as deer, roe deer and hare, or - near the sea, rivers, lakes - from fishery products.
With all due respect to the writers of Etruscan cooking manuals, this is all we can be sure of, besides the fact that it is to this people that we owe the early spread of viticulture in central Italy, the cultivation of the first olive trees, the techniques of irrigation and cultivation of the fields and those, later taught to the Romans, useful for producing oil and wine.
As for the rest, in the absence of recipes, we can only hypothesize that, like the food ones, also the gastronomic models of the Romans were marked by the Etruscan ones. And so, puls, i.e. pspelled olentine, soups and broths based on whole or ground cereals and legumes often mixed together, numerous wild and domestic herbs simply boiled, milk, cheese, little meat. Some simple recipes could be gleaned from the Natural history of Pliny the Elder or from the agricultural treatises of Cato, Varro and Columella, which include various information on the gastronomic use of the products. Like the one on the way to consume the salad, which Cato boasts of dressing, according to the custom of his fathers, only with vinegar. Even after its late appearance on the tables, in fact, oil remained a luxury product, not accessible to peasants and plebs, who will continue to use lard and lard even in desserts.