Ancient Greeks Dietary Habbits
Extra Virgin Olive Oil could be characterized as cornerstone of Greek diet. Was it always so? What did Ancient Greeks eat? In this article we are going to examine some basic lines of Ancient Greek's Gastronomy, as also as the role of Olive Oil in their life and diet.
"A healthy mind in a healthy body"
In accordance to the general philosophy of Ancient Greece, Ancient Greeks could be nothing else than frugal and disciplined regarding their dietary habits. They did not accidentally stated "a healthy mind in a healthy body". For Ancient Greeks, any gastronomical exaggeration was considered as unacceptable. So what did they used to eat?
Ancient Greeks' Diet was very close to what we call Mediterranean Diet.
More specifically, fruits (fresh and dried), vegetables and nuts were the basic food categories. Cereals were, also, standing in the basis of people's every day meals. They consumed barley, wheat, etc. Ancient Greeks used to bake a kind of bread or cake with cereals. Inhabitants of the coastal Greece used to be sailors or fishermen. As a result, their diet included a variety of fish and sea food. Meat was consumed really rare, mainly in special occasions for example at religious ceremonies. Rich people could afford buying sheep or goats but for poorest people diet meat was extremely rare. Farmers often used to hunt and eat rabbits and birds as they were in abundance. They also consumed eggs. Their favorite sweet was honey, which was used not only for desserts but for main dishes as well. Finally, a fundamental of Ancient Greek Diet was wine. People used to dilute it with water so as to delay intoxication. Wine was part of religion ceremonies as also as part of symposiums, where people used to gather and discuss, celebrate, drink, dance, etc.
Olives and olive oil
In Ancient Greece, owning olive groves was a sign of prosperity. The significant role of Olive trees could be well understood through Ancient Greek Mythology. Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and protector of Greek cities, gave to Athens a branch of Olive tree. So, the city was named after her.
According to Sophocles olives are "our sweet silvered wet nurse."
The role of olive trees and olive oil in the life and economy of people in the Mediterranean land is apparent from ancient times. Excavations in several places of Greeks has come across with food leftovers in ceramic utensils which prove that Olives and Olive Oil were fundamental in everyday life diet.
The olive tree was considered as sacred. That is why in the Olympic Games winners were crowned with an olive tree branch known as "kotinos".Athletes used to cover their body with Olive Oil.
Moreover, Olive Oil, that was produced from crop, was used for cooking purposes. Ancient Greeks used Olive Oil to accompany their meat, fish, vegetables, even their bread. Finally, Olive Oil was the only oil available as fuel for example for lighting or even heating purposes.