History of Greek Food


A wild, Dionysiac festival of fertility, found under the misleading name bourani, marks the beginning of Lent in Tyrnavos. Bourani  is a thick, oil-less, spinach-based soup served on Clean Monday.  During the cooking of the soup the bourani- people tease each other with phallic symbols, while huge phalluses are taken in a procession  through the town and male dancers rub against ground with different parts of their bodies singing “dirty” satirical songs, such as the “How do the Devil’s monks grind the pepper?”. Pepper is a frequent metaphor for sex in the Greek folk poetry.

Passers – by are grabbed and  rocked over the pots of the boiling bourani. They must give the soup a stir, drink tsipouro and kiss the model phalluses before they are let go.   Anyone who kiss the phallus is rewarded with ash on the face. The ash indicates – you’ve been done, you are free to go. Until World War II, only men participated in the festivities and many of them  masqueraded as women. Today, even children take part in bourani.

Of course, Clean Monday is the only time such behavior is permitted.


It is really  interesting that a rich aubergine and lamb dish, the Arabic buraniya, was transformed by the Ottomans into various vegetable- meat dishes and vegetarian stews. Quite often vegetable boranis were cooked together with rice or bulgur and then topped with yoghurt. The oil – less bourani of  Tyrnavos, has its roots in those vegetable dishes.

1/2 kg spinach

250 gr. nettles

250 gr. wild sorrel

2 cups of water

optionally 1/2 cup of olive oil

3 tbs of flour

11/2 -2  tbs vinegar

salt and pepper

Add washed, chopped greens to a pot and cook about five minutes, stirring frequently so they don’t stick to the bottom. Add 2 cups of water, salt, pepper, vinegar (and   olive oil).  Bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat  for  1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Add flour to 5 tbs of  warm water and stir well until flour is completely dissolved. Add the mixture to the greens slowly, stirring continuously. Simmer for 5 minutes and serve.


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