It’s been nearly a month since we arrived in Ancient Greece and now we are ready to move forward. It’s been a ton of work and we have enjoyed every minute of it – but it’s clear to us what we need to do now: We need to feast.
With that, we are taking everything we’ve learned previously (Epic fruit boards, barley crackers, barley bread) and adding some new/exciting elements. A pork roast, cooked by spit, with honeyed cabbage, served with wine, fruit, nuts and cheese – A truly decadent meal.
History of our Recipes
Pork, the other white meat?
Pork has been a key component since it was first domesticated from the Eurasian boar ~9,000 years before present (YBP) in the Near East. The Near East is a term that was made up by western countries, who had divided up the “Orient” into three areas; the other two being that of the Middle East and the Far East. The Near East was made up of the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans. The more accustomed term, “Middle East” was not introduced until the British military began using it prior to WWII. This new term “Middle East” was made by combining the Near East region and the Middle East.
In Darwin’s The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication he noted two species of domesticated pigs. The European domesticated pig (Sus scrofa) and the Asian domesticated pig (Sus indicus). The European domesticated pig is believed to have come from the European wild boar, while the Asian domesticated pigs’ origins are unknown. He stated that the two species of pigs were their own distinct species based on their phenotypic differences. We know that the Asian species was used to improve the breeding of the European species in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Trade routes between Europe and Asia had been in use for centuries before the first century CE when it is believed that trade routes between the two areas had become easier. This could mean that the pigs that the Ancient Greeks could have been eating were either species of pigs.
This may be surprising – But one of the main components of this meal is a type if Athenian “Carb-base” before and after a night of too many pitchers. The documentation on the recipe comes from a Roman doctor from the 4th Century C.E., quoting Mnesitheus, an Athenian medical writer from the 4th Century B.C.E.
One of the ingredients referenced is an herb called Rue. While rare in cuisine outside of the Mediterranean, it has been used for medical purposes more commonly. Specifically, relieving headaches (i.e. why they believed it was a hangover cure), anxiety and inducing menstruation. Large quantities can cause health issues, but using it in these recipes didn’t do us any harm. Think of it similar to nutmeg – A bit is great, a lot will probably lead to organ failure. Everything is about moderation.
I had to actually order this through Etsy to get my hands on it, because I couldn’t find any store selling the actual herb. Some health stores will sell the oil; but you want the herb. It reminded me of tarragon, which I actually love – So I cannot recommend it enough,
Dining like the gods – FEAST!
But why a feast? There are many reasons that the Ancient Greeks would have had feast:
They would hold festivals for their gods
- These festivals would include music, poetry, drama and athletic events. Sacrifices were a large part of these festivals as well.
- Why Meat? Meat would have a prominent role in these festivals; in the form of sacrifices. This was due to meat not being an every day food. For most people and in times of scarcity of protein; these festivals would ensure that the population would stay a little healthier than they usually did. The average adult only needs around 10-35% of protein for a 2000 calorie day. It was possible, and still is possible, to hit the recommend amount of protein by eating plant based options such as nuts, seeds and beans. However, if there was a particularly bad harvest that year, there may not have been enough lentils to go around.
- To get enough protein from a source such as hazelnuts, you would need to eat 100g a day. And Hazelnuts are only produced during the autumn starting in September. Meat on the other hand, can be harvested year round and preserved for future use. This made meat a valuable and important resource. We are fortunate and unfortunate all at the same time to live in the time period we do where an abundance of food is available to us.
They would have a feast at symposiums
This was where aristocratic men would meet and discuss philosophy, issues in politics and to recite poetry to each other. However, if we are wanting to stay as accurate as possible, the symposium wouldn’t work. This is because women where not able to attend these and since half of our duo happens to be a woman, this wouldn’t be doing the source material justice.
5 out of 5 stars
I adored this meal – Especially finding the spicy, yet subtle flavoring on the pork quite exciting. Especially when it paired with the smokey taste from cooking it directly on fire. My only issue was with the barley bread. I was hurrying since we were starving and missed out on adding enough einkorn – Always measure kids!
The honeyed cabbage was unbelievable. I have a feeling it’s going to taste better after a few days in fridge, so I’m excited to see what that does for me. I recommend you make this meal as soon as you can – It was fun to make and amazing to eat.
5 out of 5 stars
My review this week is going to be a little sparse seeing as how we recreated some of the existing recipes. Nevertheless, the new addition to this week was pork – and it turned out amazing! It took a little of work getting it set up over the fire, but once it was, it cooked fast and tasted awesome. The only thing I would change about the way we did it was the set up. We used hot dog spikes to hold it, and they were not nearly stable enough.
The only other disappointment from this week was the Barley Bread. When Meghan was putting it together, she used a little more water than was needed leading to them being too wet when put on the coals. This was a simple mistake and seeing how much of the meal she put together today by herself, is more than forgivable. I would deffently recomemd this meal. But don’t fill up on grapes and nuts while you are waiting for the pork to cook.
Darwin, C., 1868 The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication. John Murray, London.
Giuffra, E., et al., 2000. The origin of the domestic pig: Independent domestication and subsequent introgression. Genetics, 154(4), 1785–1791. https://doi.org/10.1093/genetics/154.4.1785