Known throughout the ancient world as a fruitful land, Etruria was considered fertile and productive by some Latin writers. According to Diodurus Siculus (1st Century BC) the Etruscans lived in an area that produces everything. Having more than sufficient to nourish themselves, they allowed themselves a life of pleasure and luxury. Today we want to let you discover the typical etruscan cuisine!
We are in debt with the Romans for knowledge we have of certain aspects of Etruscan daily life, and to modern research for the verification of what was written. Through archeological work, analysis of the written sources and the frescos of Etruscan tombs we now know more about their productive economy, which was concentrated around the cultivation of various agricultural products and breeding of domestic animals.
A protein-based diet
Etruscan cuisine was centered, near completely, on Farro (spelt wheat) and its soup which was very widespread throughout all classes of society. The ‘puls’ Farro polenta, the Roman national dish, was previously a typical Etruscan dish. So common was it that the Greeks and Phoenicians coined the term ‘pultiphagi’ for the Italic population. Ultimately, Etruscan cuisine was based on the use of legumes like lentils, chickpeas and broad beans that were considered to be linked to the underworld because of their hollow stalks.
Through the study of the remains of animal tied to the productive economy, we can ascertain that daily nutrition included the consumption of bovine, sheep and pig meat as well as wild game. Deer and wild boar meat was reserved for the tables of the noble ‘princes’, who ate two plentiful and succulent meals a day. During communal ceremonies the wild game would be barbequed using grills or cooked in large bronze cauldrons.
A land rich in pasture favoured the breeding of cattle, goats and sheep.
The use of the milk, with its derivatives, made its way onto all the diner tables and enriched a diet already full of seasonings like olive oil, which was used principally for cosmetic reasons but also for food preparation.
The wine tradition in the etruscan cuisine
Sacred to the god Fufluns (Bacchus), wine, originating from the east as is confirmed by certain vine seeds found in the tombs of Chianti, is the only drink of theirs that we know of. Appreciated not only by the Etruscans, some grape varieties took the name of the territory of production. Pliny and Virgil mentioned some of the names: The Sopina from Florence, the Semine from Arezzo and the Saturnia from the homonymous territory.
The drink, which was reserved for symposiums and banquets, was served in cups of various shapes, in a merry and opulent context with musicians and dancers. It was often mixed with water and honey, creating a flavor which is similar to the modern Moscato. Etruscan cooking was so developed that they taught the Romans who to improve their diet.
Handed down through the culinary tradition (also thanks to the modern Mediterranean diet), that cuisine can still be noticed, especially in Southern Tuscany, with the use of cereals, and southern tuscan dishes that have become widespread and appreciated.
And how can we not recognize in these ancient recipes the smell and flavour of the Etruscan people’s spontaneity: in the organization of the mess, transforming the image of the god Tinia (Zeus) into a mouth-watering steak, or how not to recognize in the enveloping sinuosity of a Farro soup the goddess Uni (Juno) and to finish, let yourself be gently swept away by the pleasant nectar of good wine, enveloped in the heavenly coils of Turan (Venus). To this limited topic we can only add that some characteristic elements of southern tuscan gastronomy like potatoes, tomatoes and chilly, arrived a few centuries later from the new world.