Greek Recipes

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Ancient Greek Cuisine – Meals

It appears that in classical times Greeks ate two meals a day, although in the pre-classical period daily meals amounted to three. Breakfast was usually called “αριστον” [ariston] and in the Byzantine period the participle “αριστευσας” [aristefsas] signified not only the student who had earned a mark above “very good” but also someone who had just had his breakfast. Later during the day another meal was served, the deipnon, while Homer also makes mention of the dorpon. In the Hippocratic texts two daily meals are recommended for the sick. Meals of the same type have been recorded with different names depending on the source or the author; breakfast, for instance, is also referred to as akraton or akratiston. It is worth noting that the Byzantines increased the number of daily meals to three and even four. However, they created such a jumble out of the different names they employed to refer to these repasts, that it is practically unfeasable for a researcher who is unfamiliar with the etymology, to comprehend at which hour of the day these meals were served.

The breakfast of the ancient Greeks consisted of bread (a “maza” of barley for the ordinary citizens, artos for the aristocrats) dipped in undiluted wine. It seems that wine for the ancient Greeks constituted a cherished habit and a nutritional element that is rarely absent from the morning table. Their habitual breakfast included dessicated figs, almonds, nuts and other dry fruits that were washed down with kykeon – a mixture of wine, grated cheese and barley-flour (which Circe used to enrich with the addition of honey), goat milk or hydromel, the latter being a drink made from lukewarm water and honey.

Usually, daily meals were confined to two. The first one consisted of leftover food from the previous day’s dinner: cuts of meat, fish, pulses, or easily prepared dishes with bread, cheese, olive oil, eggs, fruit and nuts. The main dinner course was occasionally the type of fare served at banquets, always enjoyed in the company of friends. Ancient Greeks were never known to appreciate a solitary meal. In fact Plutarch expressed the following widely accepted opinion: Eating alone is not synonymous with having a meal; it is just an act of stuffing your stomach, which is characteristic of an animal. This mentality, as pointed out by a modern researcher, easily explains the affinity of ancient Greeks for banquets.

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