Author Nancy Jardine goes shopping - Roman style

I'm delighted to welcome back fellow Wild Rose Press and Crooked Cat author, Nancy Jardine. Today, Nancy chats about shopping. In ancient Britain!

Curious? Yes, I thought so. Let's find out...

Who loves shopping? 

Personally, I hate shopping, but I’ve recently had to indulge in a bit of hypothetical buying of goods. No, I’m not talking of internet shopping – though the internet has played a small part since it’s helped in my researches. 

My current work in progress (which seems to be a long haul since I started it last September) is a historical novel, a sequel to – The Beltane Choice - my Celtic/ Britain adventure. It follows on from the period AD 71 and journeys through to AD 84. There’s clearly no major time difference involved in my new work, but what is very different is that I’m focusing equally as much on the Roman perspective as on the Celtic one.
So, back to shopping. Today I shopped in Asda, only one of my possible supermarket choices. Maybe not the same choice as I’d get in Sainsbury, or the supermarkets which cater to the more delicatessen palate, but plenty of goods to buy, nonetheless. 

Zoom back to AD 75. What might my Roman slave, in Britannia, be out looking to acquire, and where would she manage to get the goods from? This is where the theoretical shop comes in. 

What’s her master looking for on his low table? Nowadays people lounge on their sofas eating pizza- is that what she would be expecting her master to do?

Some time ago I would have scoffed at that question, but after the 2004 archaeological dig in my home village I might even smile more readily and say…sort of! The dig at the Roman Marching Camp at Kintore uncovered literally hundreds of baking ovens, places not quite producing pizza as we know it, but flat breads that could have had an accompanying topping. 

My slave will be travelling along with her master on some of his campaigns. What does she need to purchase for the cook to make such bread? Wheat? The Celts already grew a kind of spelt and that could be easily transported. To eat along with the bread? Fish and seafood was a popular choice in Roman cuisine and that could be acquired from rivers, lakes or the sea. Some of the bread might be spread with liquamen or garum- deeply rich fish sauces that were stored for two months before use. They would travel well in sealed jars. 

Olives? They were shipped around the Roman Empire in sealed vessels, as was the olive oil used for cooking, the oil also excellent for dipping the bread into. To go along with the oil spread bread with olives, my slave would be purchasing the many herbs and seasonings that were easily transported around the empire - pepper, ginger, cinnamon, dried onions, parsley to name only a few possibilities. She would find them new, but no doubt an improvement on the basic Celtic stews she was used to. 

Tomatoes? No. They were not introduced to Britain in Roman times. They only came many centuries later – and were not really in use until closer to Victorian times.

The cook would be roasting meats – beef, pork, mutton, lamb and venison since they are journeying in northern Britannia and into what is now Scotland. 

While in a Roman Garrison fortress her master would be eating stored ham that had been pickled in brine or had been salted. Wildfowl was popular, as was chicken. 

Native berry fruits in season would add some sweetness to the table, and nuts some variety. They also ate - and drank - dairy foods as in cheese, butter and milk. Dates were also dried and stored fairly well. (I’d happily eat the dates along with bread, but I’m not sure of them as a topping.)

Imported wine would be the most likely drink as anything else was often suspect.

A form of porridge, or thinned down as gruel, was a staple diet of the Roman soldier – excellent choice since it is a slow release energy food. 

And my slave’s supermarket would be the market stalls while in the garrison fort. Before setting forth on campaign the jars and fresh or dried goods would be packed onto the wagons, or onto pack mules. The fresh meats and fish would be provided by the venator along the way. (A specialised hunter who accompanied the marching forces of Rome, mostly non-combatant since their duty was to forage for food). 

All in all quite a healthy diet!

So back to that WIP… (I’d rather do that than visit Asda. *see me smiling*) 

Thank you, Cathie for allowing me to indulge. 
Can the Celtic Tribes repel the Roman army? 
AD 71
Banished from the nemeton, becoming a priestess is no longer the future for Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe. Now charged with choosing a suitable mate before Beltane, her plan is thwarted by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince, who captures her and takes her to his hill fort. Despite their tribes fighting each other, Nara feels drawn to her captor, but time runs out for her secret quest.

As armies of the Roman Empire march relentlessly northwards, Lorcan intends to use Nara as a marriage bargain, knowing all Celtic tribes must unite to be strong enough to repel imminent Roman attack. Nara’s father, Callan, agrees to a marriage alliance between Selgovae and Brigante, but has impossible stipulations. Lorcan is torn between loyalty to his tribe and growing love for Nara.  
When danger and death arrive in the form of the mighty Roman forces, will Nara be able to choose her Beltane lover?
Buy links: ebook only ebook only

“Leave me be, Brigante. By Rhianna, unhand me!” Her order had the effect she requested, though did not expect. Crashing to the ground, her swollen leg jarred a further time on the rough banking.
“You got what you wanted, did you not?” he gibed nastily, her attempt to hide the mutter of pain having been unsuccessful.
Unwilling to guard her tongue, she railed. “How would you know that? Revenge is all you care for.”
“Revenge? Aye, I want revenge, but I desire much more.” 
His tone controlled, Lorcan loomed, his questioning relentless with barely time for a breath in between. Nara’s refusal to answer remained firm, yet her silence fanned the flames for he insisted.
“The warrior riding this fine horse–who was he to have such a prized animal? I know now he cannot have been your husband!”
His gaze strayed to her chest. Again. Nara felt a flare of gratification when he appeared exasperated with himself on realising. Ignoring his hurtful probing, and the tingling at her chest, she rolled to her feet and hobbled to the other side of the filly, favouring her weight on her good leg. 
“Give answer. Was he your husband?”
“Nay, not my husband.” She confronted him, her words beseeching. “What did you do with Cearnach? I see no sign of him.”
Ignoring her plea, Lorcan tugged the horses away, keeping both reins when he agilely mounted the stallion.
He pulled her filly forwards, kicking his heels into Rowan’s flesh. Turning their direction south-eastwards he headed for the flat river’s edge leading to the deep forests far to their left. 
If she escaped, she would be done with the infuriating man. Whirling around, she darted off for the edge of the woods.
Again, a humming spear blocked her path.
Author Bio: 
Nancy Jardine, lives in the castle country of Aberdeenshire – Scotland. Ancestry research is an intermittent hobby: neglecting her large garden in favour of writing is becoming the norm. Activity weekends with her extended family are prized since they give her great fodder for new writing.

A lover of history, it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel. She has been published by Crooked Cat Publishing and The Wild Rose Press.

Nancy can be found at: 
Amazon UK author page for novels and book trailer videos:  
Google +  Nancy Jardine   
Twitter @nansjar 


  1. Hi Cathie! It's lovely to visit you today and witter on about my Roman foods. Any questions I'll be delighted to try and answer- in between writing the WIP and thinking about tasting a lovely 'Falernian' wine.

    1. Thanks for visiting here again, Nancy. What a fascinating post! You've been busy researching!

    2. Too much researching and not enough composing. C'est la vie! When I eventually get my Roman Dictionary (it's still in the Royal Mail system) I might be able to say that in Latin!:-)

  2. Fascinating! Thanks so much for that view of the Romans shopping in Britain. Having been to Herculaneum, I learned that when "at home" most people ate out most of the time. Only the most wealthy houses had a cook (or a dining room) so there were the equivalent of our "fast food" bars along all the streets.

    So it was a delight to see how different it would be for the Romans who were over here (although only a small proportion of them would have been native-born Romans). Lovely - a real history treat.

    1. Glad you enjoyed Nancy's revelations, Cameron. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

  3. Thank you, Cameron. I think the 'fast food shops' were more of a possibility in the southern 'well established' Roman towns in England, after the AD 75 period. Life (feeding)on the move in marching camps, and in northern fortresses, seems to have been more likely to have centered around less elaborate food- though mostly healthy enough.

  4. Very interesting, Nancy. Thank you for the lovely post.
    -R.T. Wolfe

    1. Thanks for stopping by, RT. Glad you found Nancy's post interesting.

  5. I'm not a fan of shopping either Nancy...but enjoyed your post. Very interesting info. Thanks for sharing :)

    1. You're welcome, Christine. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    2. Thanks for stopping by, Christine. Glad you like Nancy's shopping list... :-)

  6. That was a lovely visit. Thank you, Cathie, for hosting me.

    1. Thanks for visiting again, Nancy. What a fascinating post! Always lovely to have you here.


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