Marcus also Wrote about Fish Sauce
Marcus Valerius Martialis was a poet who lived in Rome in ancient times. He was born between AD 38-41 in a Roman colony in Hispania (Spain) and died in Rome between AD 102-104. He is known as the creator of the modern epigram. Epigram originally means inscription. It is a brief and clever statement and therefore easy to remember.
“What is an Epigram? A dwarfish whole;
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
In AD 80, Martial, as we call him today, published his first work, a small volume of poems to celebrate the consecration of the Colosseum called Liber Spectaculorum (On the Spectacles), but he would later be best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan.
Some of the epigrams are devoted to scenic descriptions, but most are about people of all classes and occupations, emperors, public officials, writers, philosophers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, gladiators, slaves, undertakers, gourmets, spongers, senile lovers, and revolting debauchees.
Martial also wrote about one of the most popular condiments of ancient Rome: Garum
“Accept this exquisite garum, a precious gift made with the first blood spilled from a living mackerel.”
Garum is a sauce made of fat fish and herbs, or as Martial writes – with blood from the fish. The Greeks were the first to make garum and the name garum derives from garos (also garon), the fish originally used by the Greeks in about the fifth-century BC to make the sauce of the same name.
According to the book “De medicina et de virtute herbarum” by the Roman writer on horticulture Quintus Gargilius Martialis this is how to make garum:
“Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a well-sealed container with a 20-30 litre capacity. Add dried, aromatic herbs with strong flavors, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others, making a layer on the bottom of the container. Then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat these layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid.”
Pliny, in his Natural History, XXXI.93 describes garum as
“…consisting of the guts of fish and the other parts that would otherwise be considered refuse; these are soaked in salt, so that garum is really liquor from the putrefaction of these matters”
Which version would you prefer? Maybe you will want to give this version a try:
To make a contemporary version of garum you can boil a liter of grape juice, reducing it to a tenth of its original volume. To this add two tablespoons of anchovy paste and ca 1/4 tsp dried oregano.