Archestratus and the Secrets of Ancient Greek Gastronomy

gastronomiaAncient Greek poet and philosopher of Gela or Syracuse Archestratus, is often referred to as led the Father of Gastronomy. In his humorous didactic poem Hedypatheia (Life of Luxury) written in the 4th century BC, he advises a gastronomic reader on where to find the best food in the Mediterranean world and reveals the secrets of the ancient Greek cuisine.

Archestratus was the first to approach cooking as an art and made extensive references on eating fish and pulses and drinking wine, which were highly appreciated by the ancient Greeks and remain to date among the typical ingredients of a healthy modern Greek diet.

The origin of modern day word gastronomy (meaning Rules of the Stomach) is attributed to Archestratus, Europe’s first gourmet writer, and his later readers who knew his poem by the name Gastronomia.

According to Greek archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mentesidi from the 12th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classic Antiquities, Archestratus presented five golden rules about cooking and eating that prove equally valuable today as they did back then.

1. Use raw food materials of good quality

2. Combine them harmoniously

3. Avoid hot sauces and spices

4. Prefer lighter sauces to enjoy the meal

5. Use spices moderately, so as to not interfere with natural flavors

In ancient Greece, people would start off their day by eating something plain as a breakfast, which was called akratisma and included bread dipped in a bit of wine. Towards noon or even in the early evening, they would take a quick meal called ariston, which included bread and olive oil, perhaps with fresh or dried fruit, and red wine. Before dinner, which was the most important meal of the day, ancient Greeks would have something like a snack called esperisma. Dinner or deipnon was usually a feast where everyone could enjoy the food after their day was over.

Ancient Greeks are known for their simple meals and eating habits. They usually ate cereals, wheat and barley, and that’s why Homer called them bread eaters. They accompanied their bread with onions, olives, fruits, herbs and sweets. Another favorite meal was etnos, a fava of broad beans and lentils. Garlic and cheese were also regularly included in their dishes, while fresh and salted fish topped the list of their nutrition. Meat consumption, on the other hand, was thought to be barbaric, and thus, was rarely used on the table. At the end of each dinner, they would enjoy a dessert with fresh or dried fruits, honey and nuts. Wine was the basic drink for ancient Greeks, who would pour water in it to avoid dizziness and be able to follow the conversation.