Monday, March 7, 2011

Appetitive: Bread in Anicent Greece

As I abandoned my work on reading Μήδεια this morning to bake some bread, I thought I should investigate bread in the ancient world. Amusingly, most what I know about Ancient Greek cooking comes from Plato and Xenephon. In the Republic, Plato describes the healthy city, the minimalist city with which he and his interlocutors begin their discussion, as being essentially vegetarian. The feverish or unhealthy city that follows it in the discussion not only lets in actors and prostitutes but also brings in meat alongside the bread, vegetables, and porridge of the more primitive version. In Xenephon's account of the Symposium, Socrates questions a young man who takes too much "savory," which I presume is a chunky stew or stirfry of some kind, with his bread. This method of eating appears to make the eater immoderate, pleasure seeking, and troublesome in Xenephon's eyes [1].

There is actually a concise, but sadly rather short, description of the varieties of Greek bread on Wikipedia. Apparently, according to the article, Solon ordained that leavened bread should be reserved for special occasion, and bread was leavened with a yeast coming from wine fermentation.

Another random factoid from my memory is that in Ancient Greece: A Political, Social and Cultural History, the authors alledge that the ancient Greeks did not like the taste of butter. My first question was, "how would you know?"

  1. I apologize for my lack of citation but I am doing this from memory. I will hopefully come back and add the section numbers at some point.

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