Ancient Greece & Gastronomy
A key feature of the ancient Greek diet was austerity, as it depended exclusively on their meager agricultural production.
Their foundation was the so-called “Mediterranean trinity”: wheat, oil and wine.
The daily meals of an Athenian (and consequently of most Greeks) were mainly three. One just woke up (their breakfast), which included barley bread dipped in wine (akratos), sometimes with olives and figs, and was called “akratisma”.
A second very simple meal, late at noon, called “ariston” (excellent), and, finally, the meal itself of the day, with the setting of the sun, called “deipnon”(dinner).
To these can be added an extra light meal (Esperisma!) in the late afternoon.
Cereals were the basis of their food. Homer calls people “bread eaters”, because bread, in all its variants, is irreplaceable. Wheat bread “artos”, was expensive and rarer, eaten by the wealthiest. The Athenians were allowed to consume it en masse only on holidays, following the law of Solon. Most Greeks ate barley bread, the “alfito”, which is why later the conquering Romans would ridicule them as “barley eaters”.
Barley bread kneaded with milk was called “mass” and it was flavored with cheese or honey. Anything that accompanied the bread as recently was called “opson”. For the more affluent, of course, there were various varieties of bread, to which the dough was added mint, coriander, cardamom, thyme and mint. A baker of the 1st century AD. named Paxamos made hard pieces of bread to dip in wine, and so the “paximadi” (rusk) was born.
The variety of vegetables was great in ancient Greece. Cabbage, onions, garlic, carrots, radishes, celery, radishes, asparagus and artichokes, which were cooked in many ways.
Although legumes were well known, the Greeks did not appreciate them much. That’s because they considered them, like all soups, “food of the poor”.
The fruits that the ancients ate were not always the same as they are today. In Greece there were plenty of apples, pears, quinces, but also figs, for which Attica was famous and were the perfect breakfast or dessert. Since there was no sugar in ancient Greece, figs (except honey) were used in all sweets.
If there is one food that the ancient Greeks worshiped, it is Fish. They were much more lovable than meat, they had endless ways to cook them and there was almost no fish they did not like.
Meat, again, did not have the consumption it has today. Most ate meat only on religious holidays, so the meat of the sacrifices was shared.
The ancient Greeks’ mentality was to feed on what their place gave them and for the most part to be content with them. This virtue, among other things, gave them the glorious pedestal they have today. This does not mean, however, that they did not have imagination and curiosity when eating. They did not eat just to live, but they enjoyed it. The process of eating itself had a huge social significance, as the food was related to their balance, a balance that they took care to achieve by combining food with drink.
Panagiotis Papavramopoulos is one of the top mixologists and bartenders in Greece, involved in many high end level projects and currently the General manager of Esperisma Bar-Restaurant in Santorini. His name is connected with some of the most famous restaurants and bars in Greece and many other countries.