Just what did the ancients eat?

A series of exhibitions that took place last year, called «Culture at the Table» and which addressed the culinary history and eating habits of the ancients, was a resounding success. Hundreds of visitors flocked to the museums that participated in the celebrations for European Days of Cultural Heritage, intrigued to learn how much the average household spent in antiquity on foodstuffs, what people ate, recipes and other secrets from various regions. This year, a similar string of exhibitions will take place on the same theme at 34 museums around the country. Starting on September 22 and running for just two to three days, the Department of State Archaeological Museums and Associations of the Directorate for Museums, Exhibitions and Educational Programs have organized exhibitions and performances, as well as gastronomic events, offering a plethora of information on what ancient and Byzantine Greeks ate and drank, what utensils they used, how they organized seating arrangements and other such details. How much did chickpeas cost in AD 301? The Epigraphical Museum aims at answering this and other questions in its series of events on September 22. At the National Archaeological Museum, the program is aimed at primary school children and centers on drinking vessels and the «food of the gods.» There will also be storytelling of ancient myths. The Numismatic Museum is where those who are fascinated by finance should go, as its displays will detail developments in the cost of food from antiquity to the present, while at the Ancient Agora and the Stoa of Attalos, the menu looks at the culinary habits of Athenians in Classical antiquity. The Kaisariani Monastery will be offering information on eating habits during Byzantine times, the Jewish History Museum will be offering visitors a taste of Greek-Jewish cuisine, with free samples, and the Museum of Greek Folk Art looks at the herbs and spices that give each recipe is special flavors. How many different flavors can there be in a feast? The question is answered by the Greek Children’s Museum. In Piraeus, the Nautical Museum does what it knows best and looks at the maritime trade of foodstuffs throughout Greece. Up north, in Veria, the Byzantine Museum is putting together a three-day event titled «Memories of Taste,» with lectures by recipe guru Evi Voutsina on bread making and vintner Yiannis Boutaris on wine. During the same period, in Thessaloniki, the Museum of Byzantine Culture invites the audience to a photography exhibition on the theme of food and also has a special event lined up for children. The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki looks at the relationship between food and communication in a new exhibition on the habits and practices of eating. In Volos, there will be a different twist on the theme, with the Athanassakeio Foundation zooming in on the eating habits of athletes in antiquity. In Amfissa, the theme is art at the table, while in Mycenae it is hardly surprising that they will be looking at the culinary habits of the Mycenaean civilization (this exhibition will run from September 23 to the end of the year). Something similar is being done in Olympia, where the local museum has chosen the «Olympic Games’ Closing Ceremony Dinner at the Prytaneion» as its theme. In Kardamili, in the southern Peloponnese, the exhibitions showcase the lean diet of the people of Mani, while in Sigri, on the island of Lesvos, visitors will learn everything there is to know about the produce of the land over the ages.