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Foods and Culinary Utensils of the Ancients

Still in the spits and sprinkled with white meal


was universally observed. It was deemed gluttonous to linger long over a repast, and contemptible to imbibe too freely of wine.

"* * * When the calls of thirst And hunger were appeased, the diners thought Of other things that well become a feast. Song and the dance."

But here again all ribaldry was debarred. Tender hymns and rhapsodies were sung to the accompaniment of the harp by trained singers, who were seated at special tables on silver-mounted thrones.

Games of various kinds usually followed, and with conversation filled out the time until the gathering dispersed.

House picnics were much in vogue:

"* * * * Meantime came Those who prepared the banquets to the halls Of the great monarch. Bringing sheep And strengthening wine they came. Their wives, who on their brows Wore snowy fillets, brought the bread, and thus Within the halls of Menelaus all Was bustle setting forth the evening meal."

Among the dining room utensils should be mentioned the various baskets of copper, silver, gold and ivory wire; vessels for mixing wine, usually of silver, but sometimes of the more precious metal, and cups of elaborate design and costly workmanship.

[Illustration: Drinking

vessels: Bowls, beakers and rhyta.]

The cups were of various shapes and sizes. The "depas" had two handles and was made of wood, thickly covered with gold studs. Another, the "kypellon," was broad and shallow, made of various metals, usually gold. The "phiate" was very similar in appearance to the kypellon. The "kotyle" was so small as to merely hold "a scanty draught, which only wet the lips, but not the palate."

The "sykphos" and "kissybion" were simple wooden cups in use amongst the peasantry. They were usually made of the wood of the cypress.

Skilled cooks were seldom regularly employed on the domestic staff. They usually congregated in the market places and when any particular occasion necessitated their services they were hired by the day. As also nowadays they generally represented several nations, and they gained in social importance as the love of luxury gradually overcame the custom of simple fare.

The regular staff of household servants, slaves in fact, were under the management of a general steward, himself a slave, who attended personally to the buying and superintended the details of all the other departments.

[Illustration: Wine jugs or oinochoai.]

But besides these private dinners, occasion often brought about banquets on a much larger scale, sometimes in honor of religion or of death.

"* * * There upon the ocean's side They found the people offering coal black steers To dark haired Neptune. On nine seats they sat, Five hundred on each seat; nine steers were slain For each five hundred there."

There was also a great difference between the foods of the ordinary people and that of the heroes described in the classics. According to Homer, who was probably guilty of exaggeration, the athletes consumed enormous quantities of various meats (roasted or broiled, by the way--never boiled), which comprised their entire diet with the exception of wine and bread. Beef, mutton, venison, and especially pork, were mentioned.

"He spake and girt his tunic round his loins And hastened to the sties in which the herds Of swine were lying. Thence he took out two And slaughtered them and scraped them, sliced the flesh And fried it upon spits and when the whole Was roasted, brought and placed it reeking hot, Still in the spits and sprinkled with white meal."

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