[Sca-cooks] pantry - garum

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Tue Aug 7 22:40:33 PDT 2007

In Latin usage (as far as I can determine), garum is a specific item, a fish
sauce.  That means a grain-based sauce is not a garum.  The grain-based
sauce would fall under the more general term of muria.  If the term garum is 
being used to refer to a grain-based sauce in 18th
Century Spain, then it is not a Roman sauce, but a Spanish sauce.

While garum might be for the affluent, I'm of the opinion that there were 
varying grades with the high end made from tuna and mackeral and a low end 
from catfish and carp with the high end garum being infused with spices and 
wine to make make it even finer and more costly.  Spain alone had at least 
39 commercial fish salting operations (which includes garum manufacture) and 
about another hundred scattered from northern Europe and around the western 
Mediterranean.  About another hundred were located in the eastern 
Mediterranean, Black Sea and along the Nile.

Seneca (1st Century) commented on the costliness of garum.  Pliny (1st 
Century) commented that two congrii (approx. 1.5 gal.) sold for 1000 
sesterces (or about 6000 sesterces per amphora).  A tariff schedule from the 
early 3rd Century places a tariff of 1 sestertius on an amphora, which if 
the tariff rate for Spanish wine at 2.5% reported by Columella holds true, 
means that a six gallon amphora`would sell for about 40 sesterces.  In the 
early 4th Century, Diocletian set the price of liquamen primus at 16 denarii 
and liquamen secundus at 12 denarii per sextus (roughly a pint).  If I've 
done the calculations correctly, this would make an amphora of the best fish 
sauce worth 4608 sesterces.  According to one source, the price set by 
Diolcetian is roughly equivalent to that on must and honey, suggesting it 
should be within the range of the average Roman.

It is my understanding that the "garos" or "garus," from which garum was 
originally made, is not identifiable from the ancient texts, thus 
determining whether or not it has gone extinct would be impossible.

And if you want to bring Barcelona into the mix, try Ausonius's Epistles 
(4th Century Bordeaux) where he thanks a student for "some Barcelona sauce 
called muria" and goes on to comment on garum.


----- Original Message -----
That is correct.
As per Carlos Azcoytia in his article "History and Mythical Evolution of
Garum" http://www.historiacocina.com/historia/articulos/garum.htm
garum was consumed in Spain until the middle of the 15th Century at
least. Abu Bakr Abd al Aziz Arbulo wrote a treaty in Almeria titled
"Murri al hut" between 1414 and 1425.
Azcoytia has found that is was consumed in a region called Bitinia,
today in Turkey until 1917 at least.
He says that he does not believe that what is sold today as "garum" is
like the original product. He explains that it was very costly as the
process is so complicated that only the affluent could afford it.
Further, Azcoytia points out that original recipes would be practically
impossible to make garum today for the requirements of fermentation,
ventilation and the hours that the mixture must be exposed to the sun.
Finally he notes that probably we wouldn't like it.
Antonio Gazquez refutes this in his article 'Garum: the sauce of Roman
Empire' saying that it is still being made in a town formally called
Baelo Claudia (Bolonia today) near Tarifa in the province of Cadiz,
Spain: http://www.afuegolento.com/noticias/80/firmas/agazquez/3073/ That
must be sold locally as I cannot find it for sale on internet.
My references continue up to the end of the 18^th C. Then bread garums
were made in the shape of a tablet. Grain based garums continue to be
made. These are the result of the 13 C Afro-Andalusian creation of
innumerable wheat based mixtures which today are called by the Swiss:
Cenovis, the English: Marmite or the Spanish: /Bovil/ and bouillons or
bullion cubes (which originated from recycling fermented brewer’s
yeast). Translators of Arab manuscripts, however, currently advise the
use of nuoc-man,/ /soy sauce or Worchestershire sauce to substitute fish
garum in medieval recipes.
I have checked with el Corte Ingles a major supermarket chain in Spain
to see if I can buy garum but apparently what I tried was only sold as a
promotion on Leonese food a few years ago when a friend found it and and
made me try it (sorry not Barcelona as I previously stated)! Their garum
basically is a black olive and anchovy spread also sold in other regions
of Spain today.
By the way garum originated in Greece. The word comes from garos, a fish
that was extinct before the Romans made conquests in Iberia. After garum
spread to Italy, the Romans established major garum factories in Spain
between Cartagena and Huelva. In Spain it was made with tuna and other
fish (and their entrails) found in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
They did begin to die out with the fall of the Roman Empire but not
entirely as seen above.

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