fd-Greece-msg – 3/16/08
Food of medieval Greece. References.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.
The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.
Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).
Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 10:12:06 +0100
From: "Yeldham, Caroline S" <csy20688 at GlaxoWellcome.co.uk>
Subject: RE: SC - Period Greek food
> At 10:32 AM 06/05/98 +0100, Caroline wrote:
> >Have a look at 'Courtesans and Fishcakes', a book recently published on
> >Ancient Greece (let me know if you want details, as MLAH). Fascinating
> >information - no recipes but lots of info on what was eaten.
> Many thanks for the info - it sounds like it might be very useful for my
> greek-seeking friend. Details please!
Written by James Davidson, published by Harper Collins (either 1996 or 1997)
ISBN is 0 00 255591 3
I found it fascinating - lots about the social roles of different types of
food and attitudes to them, with plenty of quotations (giving rough drafts
of recipes, I think).
Date: Sat, 20 May 2000 16:51:55 +1000
From: "Drake & Meliora" <meliora at macquarie.matra.com.au>
Subject: SC - Origins of this recipe?
A friend of mine cooks the following soup which has been in her family for
"generations". She is interested in finding out how old this recipe (or a
recipe similar to this) might be. She is not trying to document this for
SCA feasts (although it has been served at such), she is simply interested
in how old it might be.
I thought if anyone could help her, it would be the gentles on this list.
The recipe is as follows.
GREEK EGG AND LEMON SOUP
Oriel of the Gypsies
Each time 1 make this soup, 1 get requests for the recipe, so here it is -
finally. Like many Greek recipes it does not use exact measurements, so feel
free to change the quantities to suit your tastes. 1 make it in a 12 litre
stock pot and it is generally sufficient to serve a small bowl to between 50
and 80 people at a feast. The next paragraph gives some background
information about the soup, so if you're not interested in that, skip to the
'you will need' part.
The recipe is a traditional one and, 1 suspect, a peasant recipe but 1 don't
know if it is a period recipe. Greek peasants have a strong oral tradition
but little seems to have been written down, so if anyone is aware of period
documentation of any Greek recipes, 1 would be interested in it. This recipe
has been handed down in my (mundane) family, who come from a large island
off the coast of Athens called Evia. It is traditionally eaten (in my
mundane family at least) to break the lenten fast after midnight services on
Easter Saturday night, though 1 think it is great at any time. Note that
different areas of Greece have regional variations on 'base' recipes, so you
may have seen a slightly different version to my recipe.
To pronounce the Greek name, see the guide below but remember that Greek
only uses short vowel sounds and pronounces all letters (while English has
long and short vowels as well as silent letters). If 1 were to express the
Greek letters into English letters/sounds, I'd write'Avwolemono', which
would be pronounced as:
Av - the 'ove' in love
WO - the'wo' in won
le - the 'le' in lemon (this syllable is stressed)
mono - the'mono' in monopoly
You will need:
Two whole, medium to large chickens (Chicken pieces are OK but make sure
they still have bones, otherwise your stock will have less flavour).
1 to 2 bottles (250 mi) lemon juice (use 1 bottle to start with and add more
if you like the soup 'lemony'
4 to 6 cups of white rice (use 6 cups of rice for a thick soup or use 4 cups
for a 'runnier soup
8 to 12 eggs (The more eggs you use, the frothier the soup becomes)
Salt (this is the 'secret' of the recipe - if insufficient salt is used, the
soup will not taste as good)
Pepper (preferably freshly ground)
"optional seasonings" - Garlic powder, Onion powder, ground Oregano leaves
Remove the chicken innards and rinse the chickens well. Put sufficient water
to cover the chickens in the pot and bring to the boil. While waiting for
the water to boil, rub a generous amount of salt - 1 use about a handful per
chicken - all over the chickens. Then sprinkle pepper (and the garlic, onion
and oregano if you're using them) over the chickens. When the water is
boiling, add the chickens and leave to cook on a reduced heat (this
generally takes about 1 - 2 hours).
When the chickens are cooked, put them on a platter to cool. Remove a large
mugful of stock from the pot and leave it to cool. Taste the stock and add
more seasoning if required and then put the rice in the stock to cook. While
waiting for the rice to cook, strip the meat from the chickens. When the
rice is cooked, reduce the heat to a simmer and return the meat to the soup.
As the rice is cooking, test how hot the mugful of stock is - when you can
dip your little finger in it for about 30 seconds without feeling
uncomfortably hot, it is ready. Once you can do this, separate the whites
from the yolks and, in a large bowl, beat the egg whites till they're stiff
(if you dip a spoon in the mixture and the egg white doesn't immediately
fall off the spoon, it is ready). Gently stir in the egg yolks, then the
mugful of stock (this is important as it means the egg mixture is less
likely to curdle when it is put in the soup) and then the lemon juice. Pour
this mixture into the soup - after the rice is cooked - and gently stir it
in (the heat must be on simmer, otherwise the eggs will curdle). After it's
warmed through, taste the soup and add more lemon if required (if it's too
'lemony', add a little more salt).
Serve immediately if you can - if not, the soup must be re-heated on a low
heat (to stop the eggs curdling) and stirred frequently. If you are
re-heating the soup the next day, you may need to add more lemon juice.
Water may also be added if the soup has become too thick.
Date: Sat, 20 May 2000 04:08:59 EDT
From: CBlackwill at aol.com
Subject: Re: SC - Origins of this recipe?
meliora at macquarie.matra.com.au writes:
> A friend of mine cooks the following soup which has been in her family for
> "generations". She is interested in finding out how old this recipe (or a
> recipe similar to this) might be.
Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet) prints a recipe for this soup in his book
"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines". Listed as Avgolemono, he
states that the recipe dates to antiquity, though you would have to ask him
for the documentation to support this claim.
Balthazar of Blackmoor
Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2000 03:08:29 -0000
From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>
Subject: Re: SC - need calamari advice
Talking about cuttlefish, I came across this interesting news item on the
BBC website today - they are describing a new restaurant in Athens that aims
to serve only classical Greek food:
"After two years of research, the chefs at the Archaion Gefsis (Ancient
Tastes) restaurant say they have managed to reconstruct some of the most
popular recipes of two and a half millennia ago in Athens.
Their menu of classical times offers dishes like pork, seared in honey and
vinegar - a meal written about by Aristophenes.
There is also cuttlefish, grilled in its own ink with pine nuts, and, a
favourite then and now, barbecued goat.
The restaurant's joint owner, Suli Adamis, who researched the recipes, said:
"Here you find no sugar, no rice, no tomato, nothing of all this.
"No ingredient that they couldn't use at that time."
The whole article can be found at:
Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2000 08:07:38 -0700
From: "E. Rain" <raghead at liripipe.com>
Subject: SC - Historical Greek Restaurant WAS: need calamari advice
Nanna posted a link to an article about Arheon Gevseis, a greek restaurant
serving up thier interpretation of ancient greek food. by pure coincidence
I have a link to their direct web page:
they cite Deipnosophists as thier primary source, but sadly no recipes or
the like. It would be fun to check out if one were in the area, but I hold
to my general skepticism with historical restaurants :->
I've actually been to a few that used & followed original source recipes,
but they're sadly rare.
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 08:22:03 -0800
From: Susan Fox-Davis <selene at earthlink.net>
Subject: SC - Anyone for Greek tonight?
McPlato's serves up food for thought
A restaurant chain offering a taste of ancient Greece to the classically
inclined is wooing devotees away from moussaka
By Helena Smith in Athens
Monday March 15, 1999
After more than 2,000 years, the Greeks have rediscovered their ancient taste buds. The classical concoctions enjoyed by Socrates in Plato's Symposium are again whetting appetites in Athens - the city that hosted the world's most famous dinner party.
The food on which guests feasted while they debated the nature of love has taken modern Greek palates by storm. People have been piling into Archaion Gefsis (Ancient Tastes) and, if plans to franchise the fare internationally take off, Golden Age cooking could soon be competing with fast food. Critics are
already calling it McPlato's.
Straddling the road that leads to Corinth, Ancient Tastes boasts delicacies of a kind not seen since 146BC, when the Romans ravaged Athens. It launches a chain that expands to the port of Piraeus next month and the islands in the autumn.
Panayiotis, a waiter wearing an ankle-length toga, says: 'Here you will drink and dine just as they did in the Symposium. You will not imbibe too much because that will cloud the mind. A clear mind is necessary for good debate.'
No one knows exactly what ancient Greek food tasted like, but it is clear that honey and vinegar were used in abundance to create sweet and sour sauces, and fresh herbs and spices, particularly thyme, were favourites.
There were more than 70 kinds of bread - of which barley was a central ingredient. Fish, figs and fresh vegetables were all popular.
All these ingredients are used at Ancient Tastes, while tomatoes, pasta, rice, potatoes, coffee and cola do not appear on the menu on the grounds that they would have been as foreign to ancient gastronomy as gas ovens and fridges.
Ioannis Adamis, the restaurant's owner, said the idea of eating ancient-style food came to him in a fit of fury. 'It made me angry that unhealthy, greasy foods like moussaka had come to be associated with Greece's national cuisine,' he said. 'Moussaka, like almost all our dishes, was a by-product of the Ottoman empire. Sophocles would certainly not have eaten kebabs.'
His wife, Souli, and a team of researchers spent two years in museums and universities studying the culinary secrets of their ancestors.
'Ancient Greek civilisation may have been studied and explored from every other angle, but the issue of what the ancients actually ate was totally unknown,' Mr Adamis said.
Most of the restaurant's 30 or so recipes are based on the Luxury of Life, a 15-volume opus by the 4th-century BC Sicilian Greek Archestratus.
'I quickly learned that the ancients were very fond of fish,' said Mrs Adamis, who tried grilled grasshoppers and fried cicadas as part of her research.
But Archestratus was not so hot on detail. Like Andrew Dalby, co-author of The Classical Cookbook - the only modern work on the subject - Mrs Adamis discovered that the small matter of quantities was often totally overlooked.
Even so, the food has gone down a treat because of its low-fat sauces and healthy ingredients. Investment firms in the United States, France and Germany have expressed an interest in the franchise.
Not only is the food authentic, but so is the atmosphere. 'The ancient Greeks never used forks, and the Romans considered them aggressive utensils that ultimately inspired indigestion,' Mr Adamis said. 'We have compromised with spoons and knives. Back then, of course, people happily ate off tables.'
But the traditional male-only dining area has not met with as much enthusiasm. 'It seems that we're going to face a real problem finding women who will serve men in the anaklitra,' says Mr Adamis, of an area where men are fed reclining on couches.
A selection of dishes serves at Archaion Gefsis
Cuttlefish cooked in its own ink with pine kernels and barley 3,000
Greens and garden rocket with goat's cheese, olive oil and vinegar 2,800
Vegetables with game, crayfish, mussels, coriander, mushrooms, olives
and radishes 3,800
Stuffed slices of pork filled with plums, accompanied by artichokes and
fresh pea puree 3,800
Swordfish with sweet and sour sauce and crushed mulberries 4,800
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 22:56:33 +0100
From: tgl at mailer.uni-marburg.de
Subject: Re: SC - Anyone for Greek tonight?
<< Most of the restaurant's 30 or so recipes are based on the Luxury of
Life, a 15-volume opus by the 4th-century BC Sicilian Greek
Archestratus. >> (from an Article)
<< Archestratus? Not Athenaeus' The Deipnosophists? I'm shocked. >>
I guess they mean the 62 fragments from Archestratus as they are extant
in the younger work of Athenaeus.
Archestratus wrote on food, and what he wrote was published 1994 in the
Prospect Books translation under the title "The life of luxury". The
Greek original was edited by Paulus Brandt in 1888: the "Archestrati
reliquiae" (all that came down to us from Archestratus) fill only half
of a slim volume. What is extant from his work is not really a cookbook,
rather sort of a guide to the 'best food' in a poem. Sure, there are
recipe-oid passages and passages on preparation that can possibly be
used to reconstruct recipes. If I am not mistaken, these 62 fragments
are extant (only) as they are mentioned or quoted in the work of
Athenaeus' 'Deipnosophists' is divided into 15 "books" (i.e. chapters,
not really volumes). The text makes up three volumes in the Kaibel
edition (1887-1890). The Prospect book translation of Archestratus
always gives a reference to the Athenaeus text, e.g. "Fragment 31
Thus, the 'Life of Luxury' is of Archestratus, the 15 "books" are of
Athenaeus, and what is extant of Archestratus is extant mostly in
From: "Mercy Neumark" <mneumark at hotmail.com>
To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org
Subject: Period Greek Foods was Re: [Sca-cooks] OOP GREEK SPICING
Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2001 16:06:41 -0800
>Are there any medieval Greek cooking sources? Traveler's tales?
>Ancient Greek literature available in our period, or European >versions of
>Greek legends, that mention food or feast? Does anyone >recall dishes
>dubbed "Greek" in period sources (like the "Saracen" >dishes)?
This is actually both ancient Greek and Roman food/cook book that I bought
from the Getty Museum a few months ago.
"The Classicak Cookbook" by Andrew Dalby & Sally Grainger, ISBN:
0-89236-394-0. It sites its sources from anciet literature and it goes into
detail how to make the stuff (modern recipes). I haven't made anything from
this book yet, but it looks VERY cool to me. Recipes range from 750 BC to
AD 450...about 50 recipes. I think I paid around $30 for it, but I can't
remember. You should be able to find it on Amazon.com. I highly recommend
Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 00:09:37 -0700
To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org
From: lilinah at earthlink.net
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] MEDIEVAL Near Eastern Food, was The Priest
> OK then. What I want to find is some good solid sources from the eastern
> Mediterranean between the 14th and 17th Centuries, for from Greece from
> after Roman times to the 17th. Are there any such things? Did the Greeks
> just send out for pizza for 1000 years? What did they all do for food
> =before= the relative homogeneity of modern Middle Eastern food?
Here's a book that might have some of what you're looking for... I've
only glanced at it, so i don't really recall how much detail there is
for the post-SCA, but pre-modern, period.
Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece
by Andrew Dalby
Here's a bit of the blurb:
In Siren Feasts, Andrew Dalby provides the first serious social
history of Greek food. He begins with the tunny fishers of the
neolithic age, and traces the story through the repertoire of
classical Greece, the reputations of Lydia for luxury and of Sicily
and South Italy for sybaritism, to the Imperial synthesis of varying
traditions, with a look forward to the Byzantine cuisine and the
development of the modern Greek menu. The apples of the Hesperides
turn out to be lemons, and great favour attaches to Byzantine
Also since Byzantium still existed until the mid-15th century, a look
at a recent work on Byzantine food might have something useful...
by Henry Marks
Available from Poison Pen Press
Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 10:32:20 -0400
From: johnna holloway <johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu>
To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org
Subject: [Sca-cooks] MEDIEVAL Near Eastern Food, was The Priest Fainted
What Dalby includes in Siren Feasts
on the later Greek foods and cookery
is more of an afterthought. There's not that much
there. Pp. 187-209 in fact.
Actually the work of more possible interest
is his new one that is in press at Prospect Books right now.
FLAVOURS OF BYZANTIUM is due out July, 2003.
The food that was eaten at the court and in the realm of Byzantium
in the Middle Ages has for centuries tempted and fascinated the West,
yet very little has been written in English on the subject.
Andrew Dalby gives an entertaining account of
the dining customs of the Emperors as witnessed by the
foreign visitors (ever struck by the wealth and extravagance);
of the medical theories underlying the diet; of the raw materials
available and the means by which they reached the table.
This is underpinned by translations from original texts;
an impressive word-list and glossary of medieval Greek
food words; and some actual recipes.
It's the work we have been waiting on.
(Dalby by the way reviews the Henry Marks volume in the
Johnnae llyn Lewis Johnna Holloway
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2007 18:54:14 -0700
From: Lilinah <lilinah at earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Period Greek Recipes
To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org
Vitaliano Vincenzi asked about SCA-period Greek food, but didn't
mention the time period in his first few posts.
First, pita, while now associated with the Eastern Mediterranean
primarily Muslim countries, actually has a Greek name, which was pide
(two syllables), which was borrowed by the Ottomans in the 15th
century. It was not "pocket bread" as modern pita is, it was just
flat bread, so i don't use it at SCA events. I purchase other Middle
Eastern flat breads that are actually flat, since i'm not a bread
Second, because of hostility between modern Greece and modern Turkey,
the Greeks are loathe to admit that any aspects of their modern
culture were derived from or influenced by the Turks. So of course
the Greeks will claim souvlaki to be completely Greek in origin,
regardless of its actual origin.
Third, there are many books that address Greek cuisine of the
Classical and Late Antique periods.
For pure scholarly information, without recipes, there is:
* Andrew Dalby.
Siren Feasts, A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece.
Routledge, London & New York: 1996.
These two books contain recipes from both Greek and Roman sources:
* Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger.
The Classical Cookbook.
British Museum Press, London: revised edition 2000.
* Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa. Translated by Anna Herklotz.
A Taste of Ancient Rome.
University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London: 1992.
The first (Dalby & Grainger) has lots of excellent additional
information and lovely photos of period items, while the second
(Giacosa) has more recipes and plenty of useful information. Since
both are paperbacks, they are affordable additions to an historical
Finally, while the Apician cookbook - clearly not written by the
famous Apicius - is rather Late Antique Period Roman, many of the
recipes are Greek in origin and have Greek names. There is a brand
new translation, which i think is the best, by Sally Grainger (of The
Classical Cookbook) and her scholar husband:
* Christopher Grocock and Sally Grainger.
Apicius, a critical edition with an introduction and English
Prospect Books, UK: 2006
And there's Grainger's companion booklet, with her worked-out recipes
and comments, well worth owning for those who like doing the cooking
of that time:
* Sally Grainger
Cooking Apicius: Roman Recipes for Today
Prospect Books, UK: 2006
The David Brown Co. had, and may still have, a special deal with the
two books cheaper than the big hardcover "Apicius" alone (still it
isn't cheap, but it's worthy). ($75 for the two, whereas the
hardcover Apicius is $80, and the softcover Cooking Apicius is $20)
The second best translation is:
* Anonymous. Translated by Barbara Flower & Elizabeth Rosenbaum.
Apicius, The Roman Cookery Book. Peter Nevill, Ltd, London & New
This is LONG out of print, but i was fortunate to find an affordable
copy, and it's a classic in the field.
* Patrick Faas. Translated by Shaun Whiteside.
Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome.
Palgrave Macmillan, New York and Hampshire UK: 1994, 2003.
He has some information in his chapters, but he hated some Apician
recipes which i actually worked out for a feast and which were
delicious and well-received. Shrug. I'm still glad i have the book.
I do not recommend the Jonathon Edwards version, but i can't cite my
specific reasons, since i don't own it, only read it at a friend's
house, and i only remember how disappointed i was with it. Since i'm
something of a completist, i'd like to own it, but right now i'm
saving my dinar to go to and shop at Pennsic.
Finally avoid the Vehling version, available in a cheap Dover
publication, since Vehling was no scholar and made many mistakes.
All the above recommended cookbooks include the original recipes in
translation, as well as the author's worked out recipes - i wouldn't
recommend them if they didn't include the original recipes.
"The Deipnosophists", actually "Deipnosophistai", is translated as
"The Partying Professors", also called "The Dinner of the Savants"
and "Banquet of the Learned" and "Philosophers at Dinner" and other
such titles. It dates from circa 170-239 CE (the Roman period) and
was compiled by Athenaeus of Naucratis (since he was born and lived
in Naucratis, Egypt). It is a work in which is collected quotes from
other books, most of them now lost to the ravages of time, and put
into the mouths of a number of fictitious diners. It is intended for
use by diners to make clever conversation. Food related remarks are
rather scattered throughout, as far as i can tell. If you want to
make it a research project, you could get all the volumes out of the
library and start collecting food related comments. Otherwise, there
are excerpts from it in The Classical Cookbook and in A Taste of
Ancient Rome. Therefore, if you don't want to make the big research
project yet, i'd recommend starting with them.
OK, i wrote this before Vitaliano posted that he wants 15th C. Greek
Alas, there are no surviving cookbooks from so late. The best you can
do is what someone else recommended, read Andrew Dalby's book
"Flavours of Byzantium", which is not a cookbook, and look at Henry
Marks' "Byzantine Cuisine". Marks is no Greek scholar, so he used
works in French and translated them into English. Until Dalby's book
was published, it was the best compendium on Byzantine food. However,
he made a number of errors in his translations from the French, so,
while i'm glad i have Marks' book, Dalby is much more reliable, since
he *is* a scholar and he worked from the original Byzantine language
Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita