History of Greek Food

EDIBLE LITTLE SHOES (Papoutsakia, παπουτσάκια)

Is Aphrodite’s raised sandal a tease or is she intending to slap the goat-legged Pan with it, because she is not interested in an erotic adventure with him?


 100 BC.  National Archaeological Museum of Athens.*


Beautifully decorated sandals were traditionally included in bride’s gifts. For jewelry, perfumes and sandals  provided her with the tools to maintain her beauty of the night of her marriage.


Greek red-figure amphora with Hippodameia preparing for her wedding, ca 425 BC.
(Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)


 Homer called Dawn “Eos with pale- rose fingers”  but Sappho dressed her bare beet in golden sandals: “Standing by my bed / in gold sandals / Dawn that very / moment awoke me”.**


Eos (Dawn) pursuing Tithonus.
(Attic red-figure oenochoe by Achilles painter. 470-460 BC, Louvre Museum.) 


And there were sandals with marked soles. Walking the dusty streets, the ancient prostitutes would leave footprints with  ΑΚΟΛΟΥΘΙ / AKOLOUTHI (“Follow me”) written on the ground.

File:Reveller courtesan BM E44.jpg

Tondo of an Attic red-figured cup. (ca 490 BC. British Museum) 


Elaborate Byzantine shoes, so brighlty colored but almost hidden by the long draped clothes….
Red was reserved for the Emperor and for women’s footwear in art. 


 Theodora. Mosaic at San Vitale in Ravenna. ca 546 CE  


Fleeting glimpses of low cut slippers…


Maiden of Livadeia, 1825.
(Dupre’s Voyage a Athenes et a Constantinople ou collection des portraits, de vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.  


Did the Queen and the Maids of honour wear boots or small heel silk bow shoes?


 Queen Amalia, ca. 1850
(Philibert Perraud, ΦΑ_1_658, PhotoArchive, Mpenaki Museum)


A precious new pair of shoes, just after World War II.


 New shoes by Voula Papaioannou  (PhotoArchive, Mpenaki Museum)


This is the one who got the perfect legs for such fire red velvet shoes. 




A shoe that  is not made for walking  and certainly doesn’t  make every man pay close attention at women’s legs….  


 Though, if  prepared with thoughtful care, it offers an unforgettable pleasure… 


AUBERGINE LITTLE SHOES (Melitzanes papoutsakia) 


8 small aubergines

4 tbs virgin olive oil


300 gr minced beef

300 gr minced lamb

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium onions, finely chopped

3 medium ripe peeled, cored tomatoes, finely chopped

 5-7  tbs virgin olive oil

2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cinnamon stick

1/3 tsp sugar

sea salt to taste

ground pepper


 1  2/3 cups milk

3 tbs all purpose- flour

2 tbs butter

sea salt to taste

ground pepper

3/4 cup grated graviera or Gruyere cheese

  Cut off the stems of the aubergines, then cut in half, lengthwise. With a  spoon, discard the pulp of the aubergine, leaving a shell about 1 cm thick. Salt and leave in a colander for 1 hour to rid of bitterness. Wash well and dry. Brush both sides with olive oil and roast until just soft. (Traditionally they are sautéed  in olive oil).

Sauté the onions in 2 tbs of olive oil. When they soften add the minced meat and sauté briefly. Add the  wine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, cinnamon stick, sugar, salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the minced meat is tender. Add a little water if necessary.  The sauce should be lightly moist and strongly flavored. Remove from the heat, remove cinnamon stick and stir in parsley and half cheese.
In a saucepan mix the butter with flour over low heat. Stir with a wire whisk. Remove from the heat and add  milk slowly, stirring constantly. Place again over low heat and add salt and pepper.  Stir with the whisk until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the other half of cheese. Allow to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the aubergines on a baking pan and spoon in the filling. Spoon over  1 – 1 1/2 tbs bechamel sauce.  Cook on the bottom oven rank, until the aubergines are soft and the bechamel top is  browned (about 45 minutes – 1 hour). Serve warm.



  2 large onions, finely chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large green pepper, minced

2 1/2 cups tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup walnuts, blanched, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/3 cup currants (optional)

ground cinnamon

5 tbs virgin olive oil

sea salt and ground pepper

3/4 cup grated graviera or Gruyere cheese.

In a skillet, heat 2 tbs of olive oil and add the onions and green pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, 3tbs olive oil, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Simmer until sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in currants, walnuts and cheece. Let cool slightly before filling.


 *The group of statues bears a solemn votive inscription: “Dionysios, son of Zeno, son of Theodoros of Berytus, benefactor, [dedicates this] on behalf of himself and of his children to the ancestral gods”.

**SAPPHO  A new translation,  by M. Barnard, 1958.

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14 thoughts on “EDIBLE LITTLE SHOES (Papoutsakia, παπουτσάκια)

  1. Penelope Tsaldari

    Maria Mou, Such a wonderful well written post! I just loved it. You tied in the Aubergine papoutsakyia so beautifully. The photos were so wonderful. It was like taking a history tour. So proud of all your hard work.

    Question? I’ve been searching for the name of an ancient Greek vase that depicts two woman and tumbling. An older woman and a young woman. You wouldn’t happen to know the name? It represents the cycle of life. As we grow older we become children again. Please! If you can find out I would sincerely appreciate it. You can always email me at ptsaldari@gmail.com
    Many thanks,
    Congratulations on a wonderful blog!

  2. admin Post author

    They don’t come with napkins but they do come with warm crusty sourdough bread. 🙂

  3. nazarina


    I take a size 7 in those delightful Aubergine shoes! Do they come with napkins, because I am going to need one for that tomato sauce running down my mouth!

  4. admin Post author

    #He,he Joumana, I love some nice pairs of shoes myself.

    #However, Angeli, I tend to prefer Imam Bayildi.

    #Γιώργο, ο Βασιλείου στη Μαγειρική του 1892 παρουσίασε μουσακά με κρούστα, όπου η κρούστα είναι μια κανονικότατη μπεσαμέλ. Ο Τσελεμεντές όμως με τα τόσο δημοφιλή βιβλία του είναι υπεύθυνος για την διάδοση της μπεσαμέλ και της μαγιονέζας (και την ακραία εφαρμογή τους)…

    # Μagda, # Maria, thanks a lot. 🙂

  5. Maria

    Such an interesting post, yet again! The papoutsakia look wonderful too … I have yet to make them with a minced meat filling (I usually make them vegetarian) and I am looking forward to trying them soon.

  6. my little expat kitchen

    Mariana this is a terrific post. So interesting (as always with your posts) and I love the photograph of the cooked eggplant, it really does look like a little shoe!!

    Thanks for the shout-out on Facebook 🙂


  7. George (Athens)

    Γιαμ γιαμ…Μαριάνα τελικά ισχύει ότι η κρέμα ήταν προσθήκη Τσελεμεντέ στα αντίστοιχα ανατολίτικα εδέσματα; Αυτός την καταχώρησε πρώτος επιδιώκοντας ένα δυτικότερο άγγιγμα; Ή τα όσα διαβάζουμε επ’αυτού από τους διάσημους πολύφερνους γαστρονομίζοντες των εφημερίδων είναι επιεικώς εγκεφαλική μπουρδολογία;;;

  8. tasteofbeirut


    This was such a delightful post! Fun to see how shoes were such an important part of life in ancient greece too! and the carrie bradshaw of that era! I was delighted to see how you weaved that recipe into your post! so cool! I can’t wait to try it, the ingredients are similar to our aubergine recipes but the presentation is so whimsical! J’adore!

  9. admin Post author

    The first advertisements were vocal (vendors used to sell their products by shouting out loudly) but printed ads also developed very early.
    It seems that the wine advertising and slave advertising were much older than the prostitutes’ sandals.
    Did you visit the Eros exhibition (M. of Cycladic Art)??

  10. Ivy

    Great post Marianna. I love have how you have combined all these with the recipe. The ancient prostitutes must have been the first to advertise their services. I saw another one recently, a footprint showing the direction, a female figure and a heart, filled with pebbles which symbolized the amount of money they had to pay. Kalo S/K. Filia.

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