Greek Recipes

Greek and Cypriot recipes

Ancient Greek Cuisine – Traditional ingredients and dishes

Chickpeas, according to Athenaeus, were introduced by Poseidon (II.55b). He does not offer further information, presumably because he considered it basic knowledge among his readers. Pomegranates, that follow in the list of ancient Greek dinner cooking recipes, apart from their distinctive color also have a sweet and sour taste, and are equally old. A pomegranate was offered by Pluto, the god of the underworld to Persephone. When Demetra’s daughter was unable to resist the temptation, she was forced to return and spend a part of the year with the ruler of Hades.

The pomegranate in ancient Greek polytheism is the apple of the Judaic-Cristian religion. Both are tainted be deceit. The ancient Jews held the woman responsible for the (original) treachery. Greeks, being more realist, found no reason for denying men another useful weapon. After all, who would identify the wily Ulysses with the gullible Adam?

The recipe for chicken with cracked wheat bears the signature of the knowledgeable Nicandrus, an epic poet from Kolofonas. Having given the necessary instructions, he adds, that when the dish is lukewarm, it should be eaten with hollow bread (Athenaeus III. 126cd).

Sotades of the period of Middle Comedy mentions tope (shark, dogfish) in mulberry sause. It is part of the narration by an arrogant cook, who recounts an endless story of fish eating and concludes by stating with no trace of modesty: “I have no need for written recipes or notes” (Athenaeus VII.293b).

Entrails are wrapped in skepi (lamb or giglet caul), because they are ashamed of its black-red color, jests Alexis (Athenaeus, III.293b).

Finally, dry figs were among the basic delicacies of ancient Greeks. Figs were considered indispensable for proper nutrition, to the extent that Solon strictly prohibited the export of figs from Attica, when he rose to power in 594 BC. Naturally such prohibitions offered an excellent opportunity for the development of a “black” market. The Athenian merchants did not hesistate to meet the challenge. Some other Athenians, however, discovered that there were rewards to be had for substantiated charges. Those men were called sikophants, namely those who “showed the figs” (siko = fig, phaino = show).

It is truly ironic that the noun sikophant, which today is used to describe a lying or malicious accuser, stems from the word that signified the man who called a spade a spade, or rather a fig a fig.

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