Edesia is the Roman Goddess of Food Who presides over banquets.
With Bibesia, the Goddess of Drink, She ensured that
the feast went well and the food was excellent. Her name comes from the Latin
verb edes, "to eat" or "to consume", and both She
and Bibesia were given offerings during the meal to ensure their presence and
blessings. She is the numen, or divine spirit, of feasting, which was
apparently considered a magical and important act by the Romans deserving of
its own Goddess. The verb edes can also mean "to spend money on
food", connecting Edesia with luxury as well as with city life, in which
most food was bought, rather than like in the country where the people grew
much of their own food.
Roman banquets could be quite elaborate affairs, with many courses
offered. Roman cooking was quite advanced and fairly specialized, and they ate
a rather wider variety of foods than we do in modern times (notwithstanding
being limited to "Old World" foodstuffs, which rules out things like
tomatoes, peppers, and cornI know, imagine an Italy without marinara sauce
or polenta!), some of which we probably wouldn't touch today outside an episode
of Fear Factor, like brains with bacon, or fattened dormice (so, how
many of those make a pound?). That said, though, there are some wonderful recipes
from ancient Roman times, especially those taken down by Apicius, who lived
about 80 BCE to 40 CE, under the Emperors Augustus and Tiberius. Balance of
flavors and beauty of presentation were highly regarded in that time, and elaborate
sets of chased silver servingware have been found.
[One example from Apicius that I've actually made, and which
I found wonderful, was a dish of pork stuffed with mussels, served with mustard
sauce and celery. I'm going to have to dig out that recipethe heat of
the mustard was nicely balanced by the coolness of the celery (much like Buffalo
wings are served with celery and blue cheese dressing nowadays). Another dish
I've tried and loved was a pear patina or custard, where the pears are cooked
in white wine, sweetened with honey, and flavored with cumin. CUMIN?!? you shriek?
Honest-to-Goddess, it works. Unbelievably well. Hmmm, I suspect
that, like going grocery shopping, one should never write about food while hungry.
Anyway, back to Edesia]
Given the attention given to food preparation and feasting in
Roman times, Edesia perhaps can be thought of as the patron Goddess of gourmet