Ancient Greek Foods and Drinks played an important part in the lives of ancient Greeks. Their food was marked by frugality. Due to harsh weather conditions and difficult soil for agriculture, they were highly limited in their choices and thus these factors went against their food habits. Wheat was their staple food along with oil and wine for the wealthy.
Chefs were highly respected in ancient Greece. The Ancient Greek Foods and Drinks these chefs made were considered in high regard. Greeks had no option but to eat what they could somehow manage to grow in those rocky terrains across Greece.
Ancient Greek meals:
Food was consumed by Greeks three to four times a day with elaborate division of foods for different times.
The first meal of the day, the breakfast was consumed just after sunrise. It consisted of bread made of barley and wine and sometimes that was even complemented by olives or figs. They sometimes ate a sort of pancake known as the tangenias which was made of wheat wheat flour, olive oil, honey and curdled milk.
Lunch was generally light and taken around noon or just around afternoon with some breads, cheese and figs
The most important meal of the day was super. It consisted of fruits, vegetables, fish, fruit, and honey cakes. Pancakes were an important part of Greek cuisine. They called them Tagenites. Tagenites were made of curdled milk, wheat flour, honey and olive oil.
Flour spelled was used to make a different kind of pancake named statutes. Sugar was unknown then hence honey was used to sweeten food.
Desserts were very rare in Ancient Greece as sweet was known to them. So some items like cheeese drizzled with honey or olives or figs with honey was sometimes eaten as dessert.
Meals were taken by men and women differently with the male being the breadwinner given more preference. Slaves were mostly used for serving food by the wealthy.
Chairs were mostly used for sitting while they ate, which by the 4th century BC were round in shape and had animal-shaped legs like a leg shaped as a lion’s paw.
Terracotta bowls were most commonly used and in many wealthy households, even loaves of bread were used as plates. They used their hands for their eating as forks were still not invented and spoons were used for eating soups or broths. Sometimes even bread was used as a spoon and even as napkins to wipe fingers.
Ancient Greek Foods and Drinks
Ancient Greece Common Foods:
Food in ancient Greece mainly consisted of bread, fruits, and vegetables, fish, and meat along with dairy products like cheese and eggs.ancient Greek bread was made either of wheat or of barley and was dipped in wine before eating. It was sometimes augmented with cheese and honey. The common vegetables used in the period were onions, lentils, peas, cabbage, chickpeas, and beans.
Ancient Greeks did not eat them raw but would boil them into a soup. Olive oil, vinegar, and herbs were used as seasonings. A special kind of fish sauce was also used. Raisins, pomegranate, and figs were the commonly eaten fruits.
There was a difference in the food eaten by the poor and the rich. Poor could not afford fruits and lentil soup was kind of their staple diet. They used dried vegetables. Cheese, onions, and garlic were associated with soldiers.
Fish was an important part of their cuisine but beef, being very expensive could be afforded by the rich only. During festivals, pigs were offered as sacrifices to gods. The meat was cooked and distributed among the poor.
Ancient Greece Popular Drinks:
Wine and water were mixed and used as the staple drink (ancient Greek drinks) in ancient Greece. To have pure wine was considered barbaric. They had both red and white wine. Otherwise, water was the essential drink. They preferd to drink their wine in a large shallow glass known as “kylix”.
There was no fruit juice, tea, coffee or even beer at that age.
Kykeon was another important drink and meal, both. It was a concoction of barley, water, and herbs. Sometimes goat cheese was grated into it and sometimes honey was added. Ancient Greece food and drinks were regarded with great austerity. They considered food a form of art and seemed to relish with aplomb whatever frugal produce they had.
It was social gathering among men many even consider it as religious where group of men sat together to eat common meals. Unlike Symposium, it aimed to foster simplicity, although in cities like Athens was quite luxurious. It aimed to form a strong bond between soldiers fighting together and especially among kin along with maintaining class divisions.
The symposium which is translated as “banquet” was really a gathering of drinkers. It was a very common occurrence in ancient Greece and one of the favorite pastimes of Greek men.
It started mainly with food but then in a second stage was dedicated especially to drinking.It started with wine taken with snacks like chestnuts, toasted wheat, or honey cakes.
The second stage started with an offering in honor of Dionysus, the Greek god of vines. It consisted of table games where men played board games along with food.
Many wealthy and influential citizens came to attend these parties. It also included dancers, acrobats, and musicians. Apart from dancers, no women were allowed and restricted to male participants which only the rich could afford.
It became a very of Greek social life and also is represented in many Ancient Greek literary works like Plato’s Symposium and Plutarch’s Moralia.
Spartan way of food
The Spartans had quite a different cuisine than the other states. They despised luxuries and that included tasty food. They ate a black broth which was a mixture of pig meat and blood, and vinegar which was said to be the worst among the Greek states. They had a great sense of bonding among the soldiers with Syssitia very common among the Spartan soldiers.
Cultural beliefs about food
Food was a very important aspect of Greek culture. We can see how good men were distinguished from bad ones by how they ate. Even Herodotus had identified people on the basis of food and how they ate.
The frugality of Ancient Greek cuisine was considered virtuous. They enjoyed the pleasure of food but kept it simple. They considered foreigners like the Persians as decayed due to their luxurious way of eating. Even Alexander the Great mocked their way of eating and considered that a reason for their defeat.
The Greeks enjoyed the frugality in their diet, especially the Spartans. They left the domain of the kitchen to women and slaves and rejected any culinary or astronomical research.
But over time with the coming of the Roman Empire, this comparative austerity vanished and devoted time to luxurious and rich food.