#1~ GOING HELLENISTIC
On Friday, November 19, I will recreate a flavor of what rich and fashionable Hellenistic Greek society might have eaten.
~Roasted suckling pig stuffed with hen breasts, thrushes and eggs.
~Bulgur cooked in a well sealed clay pot.
~Voletinos bread, milled with ancient variety of wheat and baked in a sort of “clivanos” (ancient Greek portable domed clay oven); flatbread and a soft bread said to be typical of Cappadocia.
~ Gastris: a Cretan specialty made of various toasted nuts and seeds mixed with honey.
When Macedonian Caranous gave his wedding banquet, early in the third century, only 20 men attended as his guests. As soon as they had sat down, a silver bowl was given to each of them as a present.
When they had drunk the contents of the bowls, then there was given to each of the guests a loaf of bread on a bronze platter of Corinthian workmanship, of the same size; and chickens, ducks, pigeons, and a goose and lots of other items. Each guest took the food and gave it, platter and all, to the slave who waited behind him. Many other elaborate dishes were also served. And after them, another platter came, this one was made of silver, on which was placed a large loaf, and on that geese and hares and kids, bread curiously made, and doves, and turtledoves, and partridges, and a great abudance of many other kinds of birds…..
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#2. GOING BYZANTINE.
A glimpse into the diet of the rich and poor of Constantinople in Komninoi times (11th – 12th century AD).
Dinner at Evmaros, on Saturday, January 15, 2011.
THE KOMNENIAN PERIOD
In 1081 the Komnenian dynasty was established on the Byzantine throne. Five emperors from this family ruled for 128 years, trying to restore the military, economic and political power of the Byzantine Empire, trying to reassess the Byzantine position in the eastern Mediterranean after the 1st Crusade and playing a balance -of- power game between east and west. Μoreover, the cultural impact of Βyzantium on the west and the lands around the E. Mediterranean Sea was enormous. This period is usually called Κomnenian renaissance and was the last period of prosperity in Byzantium.
THE SOCIETY & THE FOOD
However, the majority of Byzantine population, the peasants, became poorer because the ambitious foreign policy was not only based on large cash reserves but also on intolerable fiscal pressure on Byzantine taxpayers.
11th century peasants in vineyard.
On the other hand, the empire became a family institution and the only access to the emperor was mediated by his family. The Komnenoi rulers benefited the monasteries and the military aristocratic elite that was intermarried with them with fiscal privileges and extensive lands.
By the 11th and 12th century the properties of large landowners consisted of large estates and entire villages. The continuing population increase- with human numbers rising in cities – increased the demand for food. This means that the landowners increased the areas under cultivation and since the development of cities and big part of the trade depended on rural population’s production, they pressed the peasants in order to produce more and more.
Anna Radine, aristocrat of 12th century
As the capital of a powerful and rich empire, Constantinople was a bustling city of a population from 100.000 to 500.000 people, centre of the domestic and foreign trade of the Byzantine state.* Grain, wine, salt, meat, cheese, vegetables and fruits flowed from the provinces into its markets. From the 9th until the late 12th century the capital was also a most important entrepôt of the eastern and northern luxury trade. Spices and high -luxury foods (like black caviar) were imported.
Merchants on a boat. Early 11th century, Cynegetica.
Of course, luxury foods were cherished so dearly by both poor and rich, though only the wealthy landowners, the officials of the state and church and the rich members of the new urban middle class, the “mesoi”, could afford them. The “mesoi” were for the most part traders, craftsmen and businessmen and bankers but some of them made a considerable fortune and enjoyed their purchasing power demanding fine quality foods.**For a wealthy merchant the entry into elite was the ideal. Where this was impossible he emulated the tastes of the aristocrats, food included.
IN A FEW WORDS
If the hagiographers of 11th and 12th century maintained the traditional ideal of fasting, less conservative sources give a wealth of information about both the increased interest on eating and the greater availability of foodstuffs. The variety of vegetables, fruits and condiments- black pepper, caraway, honey, olive oil, vinegar, salt, mushrooms, celery, leeks, lettuce, chicory, spinach, turnips, eggplant, cabbage, white beets, almonds, pomegranates, nuts, apples, lentils, raisins, etc. -listed as food of the poor of Constantinople by Prodromοs (d. c. 1166, Poèmes prodr. nο.2.38-45) mirrors both the interest on good eating and the availability of dishes. Of course above all, the food in Constantinople of Komnenoi existed as a synthesis of what had gone before, but a synthesis enriched by new ingredients and many innovations.
of the rich
sfungaton (spongy omelette)
wine flavoured pork liver
rabbit cooked with red wine and spikenard
roast pork basted with a mixture of vinegar and honey
silignites, a very white wheat bread
rice and honey pudding
quince spoon sweet
of the poor
capers in honey – vinegar sauce
black olives with mustard seeds
braised endives with garos and olive oil
cabbage with garos, olive oil and vinegar
fava made with black-eyed beans served with vinegar and honey
different kinds of bread made with inferior grains or legumes
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE DINNER PLEASE CLICK HERE