Greek Recipes

Greek and Cypriot recipes

Ancient Greek Cuisine – Legumes and cereals

The relatively large-scale consumption of legumes and cereals is another nutritional characteristic that markedly sets apart ancient Greeks from other European peoples. Legumes and cereals were the fare of the poor and constituted the dietary basis for the majority of Greeks who could not often afford expensive meat, both in ancient and more recent times.

The most common legumes were broad beans, lupines, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and beans; also, quite popular was fava, a thick puree of broad beans. Given the fact that pulses were the stable food of the poor and rarely formed part of lavish banquets, very little is known today about their preparation.

Cereals were chiefly used in bread-making. Our Greek forebearers ate bread on a large scale; alfiton (barley bread) was destined for the popular masses, while artos (wheat bread) was a commodity enjoyed by the privileged few. Among the known types of bread were those made from millet, eikorn wheat (Triticum monococcum), spelt (Triticum spelta) and olyra, a variety of barley that often served as cattle feed. With bread as their basic foodstuff, the ancient Greeks eventually came to devise dozens of methods of using cereals for bread-making; among other things, their inventiveness led tham to add spices to the dough (sesame, mint, fennel), as well as other ingredients such as olive oil, cheese or honey in order to enrich and vary the flavor of the bread.

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