The ancient Greeks did not simply eat to survive. For them eating was an act of great social importance. For example, in the Homeric poems dining was closely associated with hospitality.
The ancient Greeks had a simple diet based exclusively on the Mediterranean triad: wheat (a gift of the goddess Demeter), olive oil (a gift of the goddess Athena), and wine (a gift of the god Dionysus).
The pursuit of gastronomic exaggeration was considered unacceptable, a sign of oriental decadence. The Persians, for example, were considered a model of debauchery because of their obsession with luxury, which, of course, was also apparent in their dining habits. By contrast, the ancient Greeks considered excess to be questionable behaviour.
Men and women were separated at table, and, if there was not enough room at the table, the men ate first and the women after the men had finished. The ancient Greeks ate four meals:
-breakfast (akratisma), which consisted of barley bread, often dipped in wine, accompanied by figs or olives;
-lunch (ariston), which usually consisted of fish, legumes, or simply a combination of bread and cheese, olives, eggs, dried and fresh fruit;
-afternoon snack (esperisma)
-supper (deipnon), the richest meal of the day, often enjoyed in the company of friends, and usually consisting of fish, poultry, vegetables, pies, cheese, and some kind of sweet course (tragema or trogali).
The sweet course was taken as an accompaniment to wine. It usually consisted of fresh and dried fruit, roasted chestnuts, and a type of cake (plakous). The ancient Greeks used spoons or pieces of bread as spoons (apomagdalia) but no forks. Meat and other foods had to be cut into bite-sized pieces and eaten with the fingers.
Photo: Paris Tavitian
An ancient Greek poet called Archestratus of Syracuse, is considered the father of gastronomy, as he wrote the first recorded cookery book entitled Hedypatheia (Pleasant Living) in the 4th century BC. Written in hexameters, the book advises the reader to set aside restraint and indulge fully in pleasure (which is why Archestratus also had the reputation of a man with unbridled passions). Archestratus begins his poem as follows:
"I am writing a book of advice for all Greeks.
People should dine together at a rich table.
Three or four peers in all, five at most, but no more.
Or it becomes a soldier’s mess, where everyone grabs what they can."
The entire poem is quoted by Athenaeus in his Deipnosophistae (2nd century AD). Athenaeus of Naukratis in Egypt also provides information about Roman eating habits.
His work is a collection of dialogues between guests at banquets held at the house of Larensius, a wealthy scholar and patron of the arts. The themes discussed pertain to food, luxury, music, sexual ethics, gossip, philosophy, and more. The text is a typical manual of gastronomy with references to wine, figs, apples, walnuts, and countless other foods.
The photo shooting of the recipes was done by Alina Lefa.
The use of landscape photos are a courtesy of Paris Tavitian.
Many thanks to Begnis Catering for preparing the suggested dishes.
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