GARUM—THE IMPORTANCE OF ROTTEN FISH. Garum was a fish sauce made by the fermentation in brine of the innards of fish. The article on Portus that I linked to yesterday says that archaeologists at Portus have found hundreds of amphorae which were used to transport oil, wine and garum—evidence of the widespread Roman trade in those commodities. Fraser and Rimas discuss garum as one of the pillars of the Roman diet. It was an important source of protein, vitamins and other nutrients and was a staple in the diet of the poor. At the same time, there was an upscale market for premium garum. Most of the recipes in one Roman cookbook include garum as an ingredient. Fraser and Rimas quote Pliny that unguents (for perfume) were the only liquids that sold at a higher price. This wikipedia article quotes Seneca as protesting against what the article calls the “expensive craze” for garum. Seneca described garum as: “that expensive bloody mass of decayed fish.” I am curious as to what garum tasted like, and, given its former popularity, it does seem that there might be a business opportunity for some entrepreneur.

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  1. Mary Jane Schaefer says:

    Many people dislike anchovies.

  2. Dick Weisfelder says:

    Read up about Surströmming.

    I think its been banned on airlines, because the bulging (still fermenting) cans can explode when exposed to lower pressure. Swedes open and serve this out of doors, since the smell lingers.

    We had Swedish friends in Botswana who brought it back from Sweden and took it to eat on a Kalahari picnic. All they found in the can was a stinking soupy broth. Perhaps the jackals loved it!

  3. Philip says:

    Have you tried it?

  4. Dick Weisfelder says:

    I actually enjoyed it years ago with lots of onions, potatoes and, most important, aquavit! The younger generation in Chris’ extended family seems less interested than their parents were.

  5. Pingback: SURSTROMMING (COMMENT). | Pater Familias

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