Apicii librorum X qui dicuntur De re coquinaria quae extant

I was browsing Project Gutenburg, and came across the following Roman cookbook.

In Latin


And with an English Translation


I am enough of a cook to think this is at best a set of Quality 5 tractatus in Profession: Cook. The instruction leave out too many details to be very useful. But while I was browsing I noticed a number of recipies that called for "laser" or as Wikipedia translated it Silphium


Hmmm. A Roman cookbook that has a bunch of recipes that call for a herb which the last known stalk was given to Nero. Somewhere in the order, there has got to be a Jerbiton mage who won't accept this and is going to try every recipe in that cookbook.

Some of the earliest cookbooks were written to/for other experienced chefs, so extensive details of methods of preparation were left out.
There is a vast difference between a chef and a cook. Watching shows like Chopped (on the Food Network) and Master Chef have given me a deep appreciation for what I don't know. I'm often applauded by my wife, family and friends for the meals I cook and serve and the things I bake. I have a fantasy of being a chef, but the hard reality of that courtesy of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and the TV series Hell's Kitchen disabuse me of my belief that I could actually hack the grind. :smiley:

Actually, De Re Coquinaria ("On cooking") of Apicius was considered a pretty good Summa, in ancient times. What makes it a Summa is its comprehensiveness -- its attempt to cover all areas of cooking rather than a single one.

Comprehensive in terms of types of dishes, yes it seems pretty complete. Comprehensive in terms of including complete instructions of how to cook something rather than just general outlines, not so much. Things like "how long should it be cooked?" "How close to the fire should it be cooked" "Exactly what proportion of spices are we talking about?" are unevenly covered.

The way I figure it, if someone would read something and it would bring them up to some level of competency but no more, it should be a summae, whereas if anyone already competent could read it and get something out of it if it covered something they were not familiar with, it is a tractatus. Under this line of reasoning, Apicii librorum X qui dicuntur De re coquinaria quae extant really seems like tractatus territory. One could be a fairly good cook with a good idea of the proper proportion of ingredients and still learn a lot from this book.