Greek Recipes

Greek and Cypriot recipes

Ancient Greek Cuisine – Dinner

Ancient Greek dinners often led to symposiums. A people who enjoy companionship, eating with others, followed by singing, dancing or conversation and who hate a lonely meal, could do lettle else but invent the symposium. It is the logical next step in a coherent view, an existential pholosophy: I eat, discuss, sing, dance, therefore I am.

These gatherings usually took place on the occasion of some festive or social event. However, there is evidence that in some cases a symposium would occur following a sudden invitation from the host, for no particular reason. After the meal, the wine drinking would commence (hence the original meaning of the word, “drinking in company”), with some conversations, music and dancing by a group of flutists and singing by the guests. Often this would continue until everyone was asleep, right where they were seating, as described by Plato inSymposium or when the guests were taken, half-drunk, to their homes by slaves.

In earlier times the guests sat on stools or benches; later, however, the rules of luxury dictated the introduction of special couches, or anaklintra (recliners). On each one of those, two guests would be seated, using pillows as supports, so that they could lean on one elbow, while the other arm remained free, as depicted in vase paintings. Generally, next to the guests, small tables were placed, square, rectangular or round, on three legs, so that the food could be distributed more easily.

After the guests had taken their places, the servants brought a wash basin for them to wash their hands. The dinner often began with libations to the gods and with a toast, as we would say today, drinking from a large bowl of wine that was passed from one to another.

The symposiarch or host or a respected guest with suitable knowledge, decided on the mixture of wine and water that the guests would drink. The mixture usually held more water and less wine during the meal, while the opposite was true before and later.

They usually ate with their hands, using spoons to eat stuffing and knives for the meat. Forks were unknown at the time. They often used bread to wipe their fingers between the various courses, for lack of napkins, which they then tossed to the dogs that roamed among the couches patiently waiting for their share.

When the guests had finished eating, the servants removed the tables, swept the crumbs off the floor and brought water, scented oils and perfumes so that the guests could refresh themselves.

As for the food they ate, what follows here is but a small sample of ancient Greek cuisine and the dishes that were usually prepared for a symposium: legumes, birds, entrails, dried fruits and nuts are among the basic food stuffs of Greek tradition.

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