Tuscan Cooking in Roman times
In Roman Times until the time of the barbarian invasions that heralded the fall of the western Roman Empire (476), the Etruscan cooking coincided with that of Roman that until the first century A.D. was sparing and frugal and based essentially on pulmentum - cooked barley in broth - on puls (a sort of polenta based on farro, or miglio or potato flakes) on fish, vegetables and cheese.
Leaving the III century we have testimony of a considerable increase in the use of food, not only from the point of view of how much, but also in quality. Many families squandered their entire estates on lavish banquets with the intention of stunning the participants; impressive choreography appeared on the tables, unusual and absurd foods like brain of peacock, heron's tongues, parrots, dormice, badgers and even the vulva of virgin sows.
With the decadence of the western Roman Empire, the taste for eating and the pleasure of a good table were overlooked by the ostentation of riches and by the desire to amaze the guests so that they would talk about you afterwards.
But the cooking was not only about that of grand occasions and of opulent banquets. The cooking of every day was handed down to us by the works of De re coquinaria Marco Gavio Apino, gastronomo who lived at the time of the Emperor Tiberius (about 30 A.D.) In this work there are contained 500 recipes: many are sauces and advise to render the food sophisticated. Of these recipes non have survived, but it is not to be regretted as nearly all of the food was sprinkled with garum, a fetid sauce made from fish interiors preserved in brine.
The barbarian invasions until the Longobardy domination with the wise governance by Charlemagne King of the Francs founder of the Sacred Roman Empire (crowned Emperor on Christmas night in the year 800) favoured the depopulation of the cities and the consequential phenomenon of feudalism. The feud was a small state gravitating around a castle; the work on the land was reserved for the vassals who lived in very precarious conditions and ate vegetables, acorns, lizards, and rat soups, whereas on the tables of the castle there was abundant food, roasts, game, fish, some vegetables. All were served in a rough way, without order or differentiating between the cooking, a uniform food consumed without plates or cutlery, with only one grand cup of wine that served for all the participants.
It is during the feudal period that the various cooking of our nation began to become different; the fragmentation of territory, the loss of communication, the curtense (that is auto-sufficiency) of the feudal lands forced them to use only the local resources, every place had its speciality, its typical dishes, that still today in good part characterise the various zones; Italian cooking is infact nearly exclusively regional for the products used and for the preparation of the food, and for this obvious reason affects its history and geography.