Greek Recipes

Greek and Cypriot recipes

Byzantine Cuisine Some Words

As was the case with earlier historical periods, the Byzantine era also yielded abundant and often vivid information on nutritional habits and patterns. Our knowledge, however, of general culinary practice and especially of specific recipes and quantities of ingredients is disappointingly meager. An exception to this general dearth, albeit a minor one, is information traced to monasteries and the so-called mageiria (eating houses), as pointed out by Elias Anagnostakis.

The exploration of Byzantine daily culinary practice is further hampered by the fact that, in literary style, the Byzantine autors and scholars modeled themselves after the ancient Greeks to such an extent that the over-classicized language to which they adhered turned out almost unintelligible. This reality blurred the picture not only of the field of gastronomy but of many other areas of life as well.

Among the vast quantities of information on the foods of the Byzantines, only a limited amount of it could qualify as recipes. While in earlier and subsequent periods, legumes, vegetables and fish ranked high among the dietary preferences of the Byzantines, we can only guess as to the preparation of these foods. The study of etymology can assist in this regard, on the basis that certain words are occasionally suggestive of modern Greek dishes. However, it does not always lead to firm conclusions.

For instance, it cannot be established with certainly that the gardoumenon orgardoumion, of medieval vocabulary, is the same as the modern Greek dish,gardoumba (small rolls made from strips of lamb offal, bound with intestines and baked).

There is, nevertheless, one element that upholds this conclusion. This is the conservative nutritional mentality and cooking methods that persisted at least until the second half of the 20th century. In earlier times, radical changes had occured on a small, sporadic scale. Most major changes were introduced in recent times under the influence of globalization on human society, the development of mass media, and the determining presence of financial interests in the food sector. International corporations post advertising expenditures that equal or even exceed the state budget of many African countries.

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