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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

The principal meal of the very early Grecians


In the numerous towns large quantities of fish were sold. The salt water were more generally preferred than the fresh water varieties, although especial favor was bestowed on the eels that were obtained from Lake Copais in Boeotia. There grew up early in history a heavy trade in fish from the Black Sea and even from the coasts of Spain.

Although frequent mention is made of fish, cheese and vegetable markets, a meat market seems to have been almost unknown. From this and also from the fact that the word which designated butchers' meat also signified "victim," it may be concluded that oxen were primarily slaughtered only at sacrificial feasts.

The flesh of the hare was more highly esteemed than that of any other kind of four-footed game. Of wild birds the thrush was most relished.

Pheasants and woodcock were plentiful, and quails were made to act as combatants for the edification of the Grecian youth.

Domestic fowls and eggs were common.

Butter was seldom made, as it was considered unwholesome, olive oil (as at the present time) being used in its place.

Although the Greeks were fond of water as a beverage, the difficulty of obtaining it of good quality, combined with the tremendous production of wine, made the latter the national drink. It was, however, seldom drank in an undiluted condition, and the Northerners, who were in the habit of drinking it neat, were denounced as unappreciative barbarians. But this is not very strange, as the large amount of fir resin which is still added to most Greek wines, makes them too strong and bitter for the civilized palate to drink unless tempered by water.

The first juice extracted from the press before treading was set apart as choice wine, the pressed grapes being then used for the making of the commoner variety or vinegar.

The wine was often boiled and mixed with salt for exportation, and aromatic herbs and berries were added to impart different flavors. It was then placed in earthenware jars sealed with pitch.

The various kinds may be roughly classed by colors. The black was the strongest and sweetest; the white was the weakest, and that of golden color was dry and very fine in flavor.

The wines grown in the districts of Lesbos, Chios, Sikyon, and Phlios were the most esteemed. Age was considered when estimating the value of wine, but the preference for any special year of vintage seems to have been unknown.

Even in those early days epicures whenever possible cooled their jars with snow before pouring out the wine.

Cow's milk was not liked, but the first milk of goats and sheep was often drank, although more generally used for the manufacture of cheese.

The morning meal seldom consisted of more than bread dipped in wine and water, resembling closely the morning coffee of the Continent. The principal meal of the very early Grecians, as in the case of nearly all young nations, was served about noon, but as civilization advanced, the hour grew later, until 5 o'clock became most popular, a light luncheon then being served in the middle of the day.

Although Homer represents his chiefs as being always ready to sit down and gorge themselves with meat, the Grecian gentleman was not a disciple of "high living" or indolence. He desired and appreciated the charm of sober conversation and intellectual stimulus. Homer recognized this when he said, "Nor did the mind of any stand in want of an equal feast."


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