Historic Housewife- Cooking with Livia

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In laws am I right? 

We’ve all been there your spouse who spends hours complaining about taxes and the loss of his favourite gladiator ‘forgets’ to tell you his parents are coming over for cena, (what you might call dinner) the following day.  Which means you have to clean the house, threaten the children with the wrath of Pluto should they make a mess, get out the awful urn they gifted you (whilst secretly hoping the children break it) and make a meal fit for the emperor himself. Luckily I have a meal that never fails; roasted dormouse followed by libum, but first let me introduce myself.

My name is Livia, I have two young children, Justus II, and Clodia and we are hoping for more sons, if it doesn’t happen soon I am afraid my husband, Justus will divorce me.  As a woman I don’t have any rights and divorce would mean I would lose my home and children, which is why I always try to please my husband. I spend my days tidying the house, taking care of the children, and making sure I look my best for my husband. My husband Justus, is a good husband, he takes me with him to watch the gladiators fight and is always kind to me and the children. He is a merchant and we are what you today might call middle class. We live in a single story house known as a domus with an atrium and a verandah. 

Now, to the food. 

Roasted Dormouse.

The edible dormouse is quite popular, many people I know eat them as a snack. The supplier would catch them in the autumn when they were at their fastest and keep them in pits or in more urban areas terra cotta containers known as gilraria that are a bit like the cages you might keep your pet hamster in. The Dormice were fed on walnuts, chestnuts, and acorns until ready to be eaten. 


 Now I understand from the oracle that the dormouse is not very popular in the future but chicken is so I guess you could make this with chicken legs. The same ingredients and method would make eight.


8 edible dormice/ chicken legs

1 cup of plain flour. 

2 teaspoons of caraway seeds

2 teaspoons of cumin seeds.

2 teaspoons paprika powder.

2 bay leaves.

1 tablespoon of honey and extra for dipping. 

Vegetable oil. 


  • Put the cumin into a mortar and pestle and crush it until it resembles a powder. 
  • Pour the crushed cumin into a bowl with the flour, bay leaves, caraway seeds, and paprika. 
  • Taking some of the oil, lightly coat the dormouse/chicken legs and then put them in the bowl, add the honey, cover and shake to coat the dormouse/chicken.  
  • Put into the fridge overnight to allow the meat to absorb the flavours. (This is optional, an hour or two is plenty if you’re in a rush)
  • Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. 
  • Lightly coat a baking pan and add the dormouse/chicken to the pan and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the juices run clear. 
  • Serve with bread and vegetables. Make sure to dip in honey for extra flavour. 

Now for dessert, who can Libum? You might know it as cheesecake. This was sometimes baked as an offering to the house-hold spirits. This recipe was originally from the Roman consul Cato’s. 

This will serve four. 


½ a cup of plain flour. 

1 cup of ricotta cheese.

1 large egg (beaten).

4 bay leaves

½ cup of clear honey.


  • Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
  • Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. 
  • Beat the cheese until it is soft and stir into the flour. Add the beaten egg and mix until it forms a soft dough. 
  • Divide the dough into four and shape them to look like buns. 
  • Grease a baking pan and place the four bay leaves on the tray with a bun on top. 
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until they are golden brown. 
  • Warm the honey and pour onto a flat plate, and place the buns on to rest until the honey is absorbed.
  • Serve whilst still warm. 

With the family fed and happy, pour yourself a glass of wine to two and put your feet up. 

Author-Gemma Apps.


SPQR A History of Ancient Rome. By Mary Beard. 

Roman Woman: Everyday Life in Hadrian’s Britain By Lindsay Allason-Jones. 

Rome Eternal City. By Ferdinand Addis. 



The Romans in Britain



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