The tables of Ancient Rome were filled with a terrifying coterie of delicacies. We still eat many of them, but mixed into their menus are some terrifying snacks.
Seriously. Dare you to try some of their utterly bizarre favorites.
Grub GanacheSakdinon/iStock/Getty Images
Whole grub farms were set up in the Roman Republic to feed the frenzy for oak grubs.
Dormice DelightsMarco Secchi/Getty Images News/Getty Images
It's a practical but unappetizing solution—but the Romans went ahead and ate their local mice populations.
Stuffed with herbs and honey, they were supposedly kinda decent and tasty protein sources.
Snail SnacksLauri Patterson/Vetta/Getty Images
Escargot is still a thing in western Europe.
But most of us wouldn't go near the slimy little buggers, let alone set up the snail ranches the Romans did to provide enough edible insects to the Imperial court.
Oyster Hors-d'oeuvrePopovaphoto/iStock/Getty Images
No Roman party was complete with oysters somewhere on the menu.
They were the go-to snack for groups, kind of comparable to our current buffalo wing craze. Except even more boneless.
Fish Sauce Free For AllsChicago Tribune/Tribune News Service/Getty Images
Heinz wasn't around to create ketchup yet (nor were tomatoes in Europe until well after the "discovery" of their Native Americas).
So the Romans created all kinds of terrifying fish sauces called garums. Few of which are anything like the kind you can get in a bottle these days. They weren't just for fish. They were made from fish. And then used on other foods—including Roman desserts.
Boiled Ostrich BrothStr/AFP/Getty Images
Chickens and other poultry were around. But exotic birds were way more popular in the kitchens of Rome. Well, they're exotic to us—but were a bit more commonplace before we ate down their populations and started just keeping them in zoos.
The closest equivalent to our chicken soup calls, subs in ostrich. And involved a lot of mint and figs in what had to be a bit of a bizarre flavor combo.
Flamingo FricasseKim Jae-hwan/AFP/Getty Images
Flamingos were also frequently found on Roman menus.
They'd roast them with a bit of vinegar and dill. Flamingo tongues were sold separately as particular delicacies.
Pickled Cabbage PicnicsBrian Yarvin/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
Cabbage was one of the most popular vegetables of the Roman Empire (along with leeks and non-orange colored carrots).
It was served raw, aged in vinegars (similar to Korean kimchi), and was the invariable side dish served on every plate to every class.
Porridge Stir FryMagone/iStock/Getty Images
We still do sweet porridges and oatmeals. And so did they.
But even more popular among the Romans were savory porridge dishes that had sauted vegetables and seafood mixed in with tangy fish sauces.
Cuttlefish CutletsGeorgette Douwma/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Seafood was a huge part of the Roman diet (not surprising given their proximity tot he Mediterranean).
But they definitely preferred some of the odder sea creatures—like cuttlefish. Which they'd grill up in similar ways to our current calamari (which was also popular at the time).
Eel EntreesAtese/iStock/Getty Images
Eels were popular boiled and roasted.
And apparently were utterly delicious with a side of celery puree.
Lamb Brain Casserole (With Roses)Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images
Not content with just roasting lambs brains in their natural juices, the Romans went the extra mile by incorporating flowers into their baking.
Roses were particularly popular spices for such odd meat dishes.
Pig's Ear PoppersVince Talotta/Toronto Star/Getty Images
Beef was popular in ancient Greece, but the Romans weren't as into cows. Their fave butcher's treat was the pig.
They loved all of it, but the ears were particularly prized bits of squeaky deliciousness.
The Pork ParadeMarta Greber/Moment/Getty Images
So if you were ever transported back to ancient Rome courtesy of the time machines we all hope Google and Elon Musk team up to make one day, you're probably best off sticking to pork.
The Roman version of bacon in particular sounds rather tasty. They cured and smoked it with delicious herb salt blends that our modern bacon manufacturers haven't yet gotten up the guts to replicate.
Cheese Was The Safe ChoiceSerafino Mozzo/iStock/Getty Images Serafino Mozzo/iStock/Getty Images
Cheese would have also been a safe choice.
The Romans were amazing cheese experimenters and had a full recognizable range of hard, soft, and spreadable cheeses that run the gamut from savory pesto flavors to sweeter cheesecake type creations.
Hungry For More Roman Food?Superstock/SuperStock/Getty Images
Want to know more about the eating habits of Ancient Rome and maybe how to concoct some of their confections?
Then check out Illaria Gozzini Giacosa's "A Taste of Ancient Rome." It's a combo recipe and history book that even makes some of the nastier sounding Roman dishes seem palatable to modern taste buds.