When the researcher for BBC2’s “Supersizers Eat... Roman” was looking for a specialist piece of Roman pottery to use in the programme, she knew exactly who to contact- historic potter and experimental archaeologist Graham Taylor.
Stepping into Graham Taylor’s Rothbury workshop is like a form of time travel. Neolithic urns, Bronze Age beakers, Roman amphorae and orange samian ware, sit next to jackal eared Egyptian canopic jars and medieval jugs. It’s like a cross between a museum store room and a bizarre film set. But this is the home of “Potted History”, where national museums, film makers, theatrical companies and TV production companies are coming to commission historically accurate replicas of pots.
“Most of the time I recreate items for museum handling collections- so that members of the public and schoolchildren can handle items exactly like the ones they can see in the museum display cases. But I also make pieces for archaeologists to “test to destruction” by cooking in them- using authentic historical recipes.”
“I was delighted to be able to supply ”Supersizers” a mortarium- the Roman equivalent of the food processor, as I’d enjoyed watching food critic Giles Coran and presenter Sue Perkins eat their way through various eras in the earlier series of the programme. When I heard that they were doing Roman food, I realised that it would be a big challenge for them. The Romans ate some things that we would recognise today- like bread and various meat dishes, but they also loved a fermented fish sauce known as garum or liquamen, which they exported right round the Empire in specially labelled amphorae and even added to sweet dishes. The mortarium was a vital piece of equipment in a Roman kitchen as it was used to do everything from making pesto type sauces from herbs, to grinding up meat for sausages and pates.
There’s something very special about sending a Roman replica pot off to Rome itself to be filmed in use. Apparently the Roman chef on “Supersizers” enjoyed using it so much that she became quite attached to it. But I don’t think that Sue Perkins was quite as keen! On being asked what her least favourite dish had been for the entire series she said that the Roman meal had featured three of the most awful things she’d ever eaten: a cow’s udder pâté, duck’s tongue and a pig’s womb stir-fry. So we may not be getting any delicious recipe tips from the programme, but it does sound like excellent viewing.”
Supersizers Eat Roman is scheduled to be the final episode of the new series of 6 programmes on Mondays, on BBC2 at 9pm.
In the meantime you can see examples of mortaria, liquamen amphorae and other Roman style pottery online at http://www.pottedhistory.co.uk/ or on display and for sale at Crown Studio Gallery, Bridge Street Rothbury.