Another week, another iteration of Historical Recipes! After the decadence of Rabbit Stew and the heat happening in Toronto; we felt a need to cool things down a bit. Something more like a vibe found from waves crashing against rocks. The sounds of treetops rocking in the wind. Finally, a dinner made over a fire, while enjoying the temperatures swiftly declining.
While we’d love to do that completely – We don’t live on the coast (We are a 15 minute walk to the Lakeshore, though!). Our historical recipes this week are still inspired by the white sands and bright blue waters of the Greek Peninsula. We transformed our garden into a Grecian Paradise; complete with a Seafood Stew made on the grill, along with a dry, barley cracker called Maza made in the morning in the kitchen, to save us from scorching.
The History of these Recipes
When most think of Ancient Greece, we are tempted to think of grand cities and people sitting; discussing philosophy. And why yes, there were those things, the Ancient Greeks didn’t see themselves as one people until Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II of Macedon, conquered Greece. But one thing that was shared before Phillip II, was food. Food has always been one of those things that has brought people together.
Ancient Greece started around 1200BCE after the fall of the Mycenaean civilization until the death of Alexander the Great in 323BCE. The ancient Greeks are known for philosophy and their gods. They had a god devoted to food (amongst other things) Dionysus. They had much the same food that we seen in Ancient Egypt, from grapes to wheat. But onions held a high place in their culture. Their athletes would eat them in large numbers because they thought it would make them more powerful. There are several theories about where the onion was first domesticated, but regardless of where they where; we know they loved them.
Most of Greece is located on the coast line, either on the mainland or the 6,000 islands. Not all of the islands are inhabited, though. Regardless, with coastline; comes seafood and a lot of it. Homer referred to fish as being food that was not for a hero. Fresh fish was not on the diet for those of lower means. Most people would eat fish either salted or dried. Fish such as anchovies and sardines where very abundant and people of lesser means were able to buy these fish fairly easily. Fish was most often served as a side dish to compliment the main part of the meal, that being barley or wheat.
The meal that we are preparing would not have been for people of lower classes due to the seafood being fresh along with the use of honey in the maza. Honey seems to have been another industry that favored the rich. There is evidence of beekeeping overseers by the evidence of rings and seals depicting beekeeping. There has been evidence of beehives, smoking pots and other objects that are associated with beekeeping.
Main – Maza with Cucumber and Olive relish
Secondary – Greek Seafood Stew
4 out of 5 stars
I loved this meal. The stew was tasty, but light. The maza was fantastic, especially when paired with the goat cheese, cucumber and olive relish. Overall, I enjoyed this meal quite a bit, but I agree that it did seem to be missing something.
3 out of 4 stars
The maza was delicious, especially when dipped in wine. The seafood stew was on the bland side for me, even with all the onions. It tasted good even though. I think that if we went with frying the squid instead of stewing it, it would have tasted much better. But for me, the maza is what stood out the most. I would highly recommend it for anyone to make.
Bellwood, P. (2008). In First Farmers: The origins of agricultural societies (p. 72). essay, Blackwell.
Harissis, H. and Harissis, A., 2009. Apiculture in the prehistoric Aegean. Oxford: British Arcaeological Reports, pp.32-40.
Pérez-Lloréns, J. L., Acosta, Y., & Brun, F. G. (2021). Seafood in Mediterranean countries: A culinary journey through history. International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, 26, 3–7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgfs.2021.100437