THE ANCIENT GREEKS AND THEIR DIETARY HABITS
By knowing a people’s dietary habits, we can also know their way of life. Dietary habits are an important element of any culture.
There were typically three daily meals in Ancient Greece. Breakfast consisted of bread (artos) dipped in wine. Often it was accompanied by dried nuts such as almonds and walnuts, and dried figs. As a breakfast beverage, they had a mixture of wine, grated cheese and barley flour, goat milk, and water with honey.
The second meal consisted of legumes or rough dishes of dried nuts, olives, fruit or fish, depending on the area of residence.
But the most important meal in those times was dinner, with a variety of foods on the table since they often had large gatherings, the so-called symposiums.
Vegetables – Fruits – Seasonings
Since ancient times, the Greeks had a special fondness for vegetables and fruit. Some of the vegetables available at the time were cucumbers, artichokes, peas, onions, mushrooms, garlic, olives, etc.
The fruits of the era were plums, quinces, pears, olives, and the two most important ones, grapes and figs.
The seasonings they used for their dishes were dill, basil, cardamom, capers, thyme, etc.
Legumes and Cereals
Legumes and cereals have formed the basis of alimentation for most Greeks since antiquity. The vast variety of breads they had was due to the two main agricultural products of Ancient Greece: barley and wheat.
In those times, meat was a luxury. They usually ate meat at their symposiums, rarely in their everyday lives. The main sources of meat were hares, rabbits, wild boars, deer, etc. They cooked it in various ways, such as in the oven, roasted on a skewer, or boiled with vegetables.
Like today, the Ancient Greeks ate a lot of fish. They preferred fishes such as mackerel, sardines, minnows, whitebait, etc.
Olive oil – Olives
Olive oil was a necessary addition to every dinner table. The Ancient Greeks used to extract their olive oil from green (unripe) olives and used it in various salads. The islands of Samos and Ikaria had the most renowned olive oil in those days. The region of Attica exported olive oil and olives.
Olives were a very common side dish in their meals. They ate them raw or preserved. Aristophanes, in his play “Eirini [Peace]”, makes reference to savory or mature olives. (“The chicken has been cooked, the sesame and honey sweet has been kneaded. The dried figs in a bunch and the savory olives.”)
The diet of the Ancient Greeks appears to have been complete, in regards to the foods that were available at the time. This begs the conclusion that Ancient Greeks enjoyed good food. The proof is in the various symposiums they organized, where in most instances the tables bore a variety of dishes and foods.
Besides, it was the Ancient Greeks who taught us about “a sound mind in a sound body”. Meaning that a sound, or healthy, mind must reside in a sound, or healthy, body. As important as the cultivation of the mind was to them, of equal importance was the proper alimentation for the body.