Even without tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peppers, lemons ,mandarins and oranges the Ancient Greeks had a very rich kitchen. Today in Crete they keep up with the Minoan traditions eating such foods as snails and wild goat in honey.
Tradition says that the Greeks eat more fish such as mackerel, sardine, whitebait and eel than meat. Athenians rich and poor, had a weakness for shellfish. In great demand was fish paste from Ellisponto and Efxino Ponto and lake Kopais. The people got used to eating sardines from Faliro and barley bread so every time prices increased the poor got worried. Vegetables, pulses and cereal were widely eaten by fans of Pythagoras and Platon amongst others, who were non flesh eaters.
Appearing on the table were cucumber, artichokes, courgettes, broad beans, onions, cabbage, mushrooms, beetroot, leeks, carrot, celery, beans, lentils, nettles and wheat and barley bread. An every day diet included different kinds of meat such as hare, wild pig, rabbit, venison, wild goat, birds and even domestic animals. They were baked, roasted, cooked on the spit and boiled with a variety of spices. Small birds were stuffed with spices as is still done to this day in Mani. Cheese and milk was always on the table but in cities it was a rarity. Wine was a necessity as was honey as sugar was then unknown. Tradition says lamb on the spit began in ancient Greece where it was cooked at celebrations. The word '' ovelias'' comes from the ancient word '' ovelos'' meaning spit. Ancient Greek religious festivals, in honor of Hermes, sacrificed a ram. Homer describes in the Iliad in detail how Achilles with the help of a friend skewered the animal. Another tradition is that of festive bread. For each celebration a bread is baked using special ingredients and ways of baking.
The diet of the Mycenaean's (1600-1075 BC)
The exhibition of the Mycenaean's includes organic remains, which were found at the excavations, cooking pots and vessels as well as tools which were used in their dietary habits. The organic remains are animal bones, sea-shells, cereals, figs, almonds and crystals of wine. Analysis for the exhibition of " Minoans and Mycenaean's flavors of their time" has been traced in vases and mainly in cooking pots olive oil, wine, meat, lentils, honey and other materials.
The diet at Mycenae was the so-called today" Mediterranean Diet" with a great consumption of cereals and pulses. Oil and wine were widely used and known because they supplied the hard working people of the time with calories and energy. These products are exhibited in antiquities to the Levant inside stirrup jars.
A lot of vegetables and fruit were consumed fresh or dry.
Food was served in open vessels and liquids in kylikes, cups of different shapes which copy metallic vessels. Many herbs are mentioned in Linear B tablets that used to give flavor to the food. Among the ones that have been interpreted are crocus, celery, cardamom, mint and fennel.
Today ,enjoying meals together is an important part of Greek life. They would do so every day if it were possible, but every day commitments, particularly in the big cities, mean that there obviously has to be a compromise.
On special occasions, however, there is no getting away from it , the whole family, if not the entire village, sits down around the table. This is true of private celebrations, such as weddings, baptisms or funerals and is likewise the case on "official" religious holidays.
The communal meal takes on special meaning, however, when it has been preceded by a long period of fasting and privation, as in the run-up to Easter. Not only is the occasion of having a meal together cause for celebration, but also the very fact of being able to eat normally again is reason to celebrate in itself. The tables groan under the weight of food and the talking and eating go on for hours.