Greek tomato sauce

greek spaghetti sauce

Hercules was actually the offspring of Alcmene and Zeus who took the form of her husband in order to deceive her, when Amfitrion was away in battle.  When the child was born, Hera, Zeus’ wife who hated Alcmene would not allow it to live.  She sent two huge snakes to kill the baby in its crib.  Little Hercules woke up from the hissing sound, grabbed the snakes and killed them by just squeezing them with his palms.  This was the first sign of his divine power.  When Alcmene and Amfitrion realized what had happened, called for prophet Tiresias  to foretell the baby’s future.  Tiresias predicted that Hercules would become immortal after having accomplished brave deeds and majestic labours. Continue reading

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HELLAS

Only 25 Euros were needed for this little video to be produced by a group of students of the Greek school of creative writing ‘Tabula rasa’.  It is simple in its creation, without any pretence but with immense passion and love for our country and an urge to show how everyday life in Greece can have such warmth and joy through simple pleasures in combination with magnificent weather, astonishing beaches and the incomparable spontaneity of the Greek people.

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Mackerel with bulgur

mackerel with bulgur

“Of course the Greeks too had their roots in the primeval slime.  Of course they too once lived a savage life, ugly and brutal.  But what the myths show is how high they had risen above the ancient filth and fierceness by the time we have any knowledge of them.  Only a few traces of the time are to be found in the stories.

We do not know when these stories were first told in their present shape; but whenever it was, primitive life had been left far behind.  The myths as we have them are the creation of great poets.  The first written record of Greece is the Iliad.  Greek mythology begins with Homer, generally believed to be not earlier than a thousand years before Christ.  The Iliad is or contains the oldest Greek literature; and it is written in a rich, subtle and beautiful language which must have had behind it centuries when men were striving to express themselves with clarity and beauty, an indisputable proof of civilization.   The tales of Greek mythology do not throw any clear light upon what early mankind was like.  They do throw an abundance of light upon what early Greeks were like-a matter, it would seem, of more importance to us, who are their descendants, intellectually, artistically, and politically, too.”   Extract taken from “Mythology” by Edith Hamilton. Continue reading

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Bitter orange spoon sweet

bitter orange spoon sweet

Spring has stepped in and the streets of Athens are filled with the exuberant aroma of the blooming bitter-orange trees. It is a pleasure to see these elegant little trees in full bloom, standing like happy brides dressed in white gowns in a row on the pavement.  Each year the blooming of the bitter-orange tree marks the end of winter and the joyous coming of spring with the big, translucent and glorious sunny days and the sweet, perfumed nights ‘basking’ at balconies or gardens, or open air summer cinemas that too are full of climbing shrubs bursting from fragrant flowers, mainly honeysuckle and jasmine.  Euphoria, happiness, serenity, tenderness, sentiments emanating from a blessed land. Continue reading

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Ant exterminator

Spring has come at last!  Along came armies of marching ants!!  The environment-friendly  solution is  in a spray gun, 1 tablespoon icing sugar, 1 teaspoon of boric acid and 1/2 cup of water.  We spray the ants with it and we smile with the results!!  We  may have to repeat twice.

 

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Greek Lenten cookies

greek lenten cookiesArchestratos of Gela, a Sicilian poet and gastronome, around 330BC through his didactic comic-epic poem “Hedupatheia” (love of pleasure and specifically of food pleasure) parodies everything about the ‘cuisine’ of this period.  It is a complete gastronomic guide regarding where to find the freshest produce, the techniques of cooking them, alternative ingredients that contribute to different tastes and the culinary expertise of various chefs.  A true ‘Master chef’ was firstly an expert in slaughtering sacrificial animal wherefrom derived his ability in expertly treating meat and fish that were the main ingredients in all banquets.   He should also be an expert in astrological cosmology, architecture, geometry, natural history, military strategy and medicine.  There were no female cooks but women could be special artisans when it came to preparing desserts and cakes.  Continue reading

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The Antikythera mechanism

In 1901 near Antikythera – a small Greek island south of the Peloponnese a shipwreck of major archaeological importance was firstly discovered and recovered by Greek sponge divers and the assistance of the Greek Royal Navy. Later, in 1976, a second underwater research was carried out by the Greek Archaeological service and J.-Y. Cousteau’s oceanographic “Calypso”. The wreck is dated approximately to 60-50 BC, though its cargo of statues, coins and artifacts, from the 4th to the 1st century BC.  Among the objects were also found the severely corroded remnants of
an Astronomical device that is called the world’s oldest known analog computer,
the Antikythera mechanism. It contained at least 30 gearwheels as well as dials, scales, axles and pointers. The greek, astronomical inscriptions on the surface of the Mechanism refer to astronomical and calendar calculations, while the inscriptions on its metal protective plates contain instructions for its use. The Mechanism was protected by a wooden case, which had a bronze plaque on the front and the back side.

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Chickpea stew

chickpea stew

The curiosity of the Ancient Greek authors did not end at the shores of their sea, but extended to the far reaches of the known world.  Megasthenes, a Greek author of the Hellenistic era, arrived in India following Alexander the Great, and after living in the subcontinent for a while, wrote his second book, Indika (“History of India”), which is the first well-known Western account of India. Thus he is regarded as one of the founders of the study of Indian history in the West. He is also the first foreign Ambassador to be mentioned in Indian history.  In Indika he describes the older Indians and their religions, the mainland and Sri-Lanka, as well as the caste system that existed, customs and elements of what the Indians ate and how the food was served.  He recounts how in that far-off land a low table was set next to each guest and on it was placed a golden bowl filled to the brim with boiled rice and a number of strongly spiced meat sauces.  From this we can assume that even in the 4rth century B.C., Indian food was based on curry sauces.

(text adapted from the book “Meals and recipes from Ancient Greece” by Eugenia Salza Prina Ricotti)

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Greek meat pie

greek meat pie

In Ancient Greece, many culinary texts have been written but only a few have survived throughout the centuries.  The most famous as well as the most valuable of all is “the Deipnosophistae” which means “Gastronomers discussing on various matters, during dinner” and consists of fifteen books written by Atheneaus of Naucratis, a Greek scholar that lived from 170 to 240 A.D. mostly in Alexandria.  Unfortunately, from the first three only fragments and quotations exist.  These books are a treatise on all aspects of ancient life.  Athenaeus has compiled literary works from Ancient Greek writers and cooks and synthesized them in an anthology that is still modern, timely and easy to read today. They contain detailed notes on culinary preparation and ingestion of food from the times of Homer (around 800B.C.) and forward, as well as anecdotes, poems and citations from philosophers and play-writers.

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Quail roasted in vine leaves

quail

Ancient Greeks are the world’s earliest people to seriously delve into the origin of things, their roots and all the subjects of their time and their daily lives, so besides the oral myths they started writing history, whether as mythologists, geographers, poets or even comic writers.  The order of the cosmos, every aspect of nature and the human functioning within it became a major study. They have been obsessed with analysis and rational order in every aspect of nature and the way it coheres with humans, thus there is plenty of literature concerning their sustenance from their primitive tribal existence to the classical era (5th-4th century bc) as well as the Hellenistic age following the conquests of Alexander the Great.

They developed a true gastronomic tradition which flourished in the agricultural colonies of the western Greek world, in Sicily and southern Italy as well as, during Ptolemaic and Roman times, in Alexandria, the capital of Egypt, at that time.  We have information about glorious meals hosted by the Mycenaean kings to plethoric banquets of the last sovereigns of the Hellenistic era. Continue reading

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