| HISTORY :: THE ROMANS
Eating and drinking
Luncheon was usually a cold meal, eaten about 11 o'clock in the morning. Lunch was bread, salad, olives, cheese, fruit, nuts, and cold meat left over from dinner the night before. This was followed by an after rest or nap.
During the Republic
(And perhaps almost through the second century B.C.) Romans ate mostly vegetables, and dined very simply. Meals were prepared by the mother or by female slaves under her direction. A table was set up in the atrium of the house. The father, mother, and children sat on stools around the table. Sometimes the children waited on their parents.
Table knives and forks were unknown, but the Romans had spoons like ours today. Before food was served, it was cut into fingerfood, and eaten by using your fingers or a spoon. In the last two centuries of the Republic, this simple style of living changed a bit. A separate dining room was designed. In place of benches or stools, there were dining couches.
During the Imperial Age
The lower class Romans (plebeians) might have a dinner of porridge made of vegetables, or, when they could afford it, fish, bread, olives, and wine, and meat on occasion.
Since many of the lower class were citizens, the ancient Romans had a program to help them, somewhat like a welfare program. The welfare program was called the annona. There was also a separate WIC-type or school-lunch program (the alimenta), just for kids, which was instituted, or at least greatly developed in early 2c AD.
In the regular food welfare system, people were issued welfare stamps, which were little tokens, called tesserae. How these were issued (remember there was no open public postal system), and how Romans identified themselves to the authorities in the first place, we (the authors of this article) do not know.
You brought your tokens (tesserae) and containers, at large government warehouses. You got wheat flour - or bread already baked from government bakeries, and other foodstuffs. Meat was distributed on special occasions with special tokens.
The upper class Romans (patricians) had dinners that were quite elaborate. The men had the dinner parties; (decent) women and children ate separately. They ate many different foods, drank lots of wine, and spent hours at dinner.
Quite often, the men's dinner parties had entertainment, such as dancing girls or a play, or both. Men reclined on couches, arranged around the dinner table. In their separate dining quarters, women and children usually sat on chairs. As things loosened up in the late Empire, decent women could go to a dinner party. To make up for it, there were several types of events that only women attend, the most prominent of which was the religious/social Festival of the Bona Dea, the "Good Goddess", held in the house of the hostess. If a man went to the Bona Dea, even the woman's husband in what was after all his own house, he could be put to death!
Julius Caesar divorced one of his wives because there were rumors that a man had slipped into the Bona Dea festival at his house. Although it was never proved, it was on that occasion that Caesar said that not only Caesar's wife should be above reproach, she should be seen to be, as well.
Drinking wine was part of daily life. In very early days, women were not allowed to drink wine. Their husband might kiss them on the mouth to see if they had been drinking. It sounds sweet, but if a husband believed his wife had been drinking, she could be severely beaten.
However, during the time of the Roman Empire women could drink wine.