For this iteration of Historical Recipes, we are moving towards the Grecian Mainland and we are embracing the dog days of summer. We’ve been battling the opposite of usual summer health. Instead of hiking, canoeing and enjoying nature; we’ve been inside battling illnesses. First, it was Brad hit by “We-Don’t-Know-What-This-Is-And-The-Doctors-Don’t-Either” virus that Brad has been battling since we came back to the US in 2020. Then, I was hit by something that felt like COVID, but multiple tests have determined otherwise.
Because of this, we were eager to dive into something lighter. Not only on our effort, but on our waistlines. Illness and the summer can often lead to a lot of quick, processed food. As someone who is a vegetarian 75% of the time, I know how the sausage is made – but I can rarely deny a mystery-meat hotdog. With that, we decided to save our sodium-levels and heart, and eat like a Grecian laborer this week.
With that, we a focusing on a traditional Barley flatbread with a side of fruits and hazelnuts. This would be one of the more common meals due to the accessibility into acquiring meat.
History of the Recipes
Meat hasn’t always been as easy to obtain as it is today. As we shift from the coast, we would lose the accessibility of seafood, like what we had in the last blog. With us being in the Grecian Mainland, we figured we would take a look at what a dinner would look like abstaining from meat, to make it a lower means dish. Unsurprisingly, the dish will be quite simple. For these historical recipes, we will only have bread, nuts, cheese and fruit.
The bread will be the most common of Grecian breads – A Flat Bread. This bread is very easy to make and can be made anywhere as long as you have flour and water. Bread has been a staple of meals since we figured out how to farm the grains to make it. Farming is a time intensive process, but as long as done correctly, it can provide a stable food source for numerous years. One of the many theories, is that we may have chosen to settle down and start farming due to something that is called “social stress”. This simply means that we chose to start farming because population size was increasing leading to greater competition, with the limited resources our hunter-gather ancestors had available to them. This created a new industry of a steady food source which then took off and we continue to benefit from this today.
Bread is mentioned in Athenaeus Deipnosophistae (The Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus) regarding how it was prepared. There are several different ways that are mentioned; from the what we would view as a traditional way of making bread, such as using an oven to using ashes. We have decided that using heated ashes was the way we where going to bake our bread today. We decoded because an oven may not have always been available for everyone. However, a fire is easy to start and placing the dough directly on the coals is easy to do and you only need a couple of sticks to flip the dough.
Fruits and Nuts
But what of things that you don’t have to prepare yourself? As a species, we have depended on gathering foods from nature, and regions like Greece had abundant sources, both naturally and cultivated. For individuals of lesser means, the benefit of these foods was often the they were free if picked from the wild, with numerous sources available. Something sweet is always nice and fruit has been the answer for many.
Pomegranates are a large fruit, in a bright pink color, with numerous edible seeds within. Throughout history, they have been noted for various things, including its ties to romance and those seeds. Pomegranates are native from Iran to Northern Indian Himalayas.
The pomegranate is mentioned in the Greek myth of where Hades abducts Persephone and takes her to the underworld. When Persephone ate the seeds of the pomegranate, she linked herself to Hades. The pomegranate was viewed as in terms of marriage as making it lasting and unbreakable. Due to its unique look and taste, they have spread all over and are probably one of the more recognizable fruits.
For the last several meals we have used pistachios. While these are common in majority of our regions’ dishes, we felt a need to introduce a new type of nut. Hazelnuts were first domesticated in the Black Sea region, with Turkey producing majority of their output. But our ancestors found hazelnuts just as delicious as I do. We have evidence of use for hazelnuts dating back to the Mesolithic in England and Ireland. Needless to say, people have loved hazelnuts for a very long time. There is a good reason they are still eaten today.
5 out of 5 stars
This is the closest to perfect meal we’ve made. It was filling, yet light. Easy to enjoy over a conversation, on a beautiful night. It was perfect and it took us nearly an hour to eat it, due to the good conversation. I could live off the barley flatbread and pomegranates as my main source of food forever if I could.
And goat cheese.
5 out of 5 stars
So this meal would have gotten 5 stars from me from the start, due to the Hazelnuts. I really love Hazelnuts. However, the bread was a nice surprise. I was really expecting it to taste too smoky/charcoaly (Hank Hill would not approve of us tasting the heat). Dipping the bread in the wine worked better than expected.
Bellwood, Peter S. 2007 Essay. In First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies Pp. 19–25. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
Conneller, Chantal. 2009 Essay. In Mesolithic Britain and Ireland: New Approaches P. 117. Stroud: Tempus.
Islam, Ali., Isik, Ahsen., Bostan, S.Z., and Karadeniz, Turan. 2005. Relationships among Nut Characteristics in the Important Hazelnut Cultivars. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences 8(6): 914.