CULTURE

A taste of culinary antiquity

Visitors to dozens of museums across the country will sample a taste of antiquity in an exhibition series this weekend on cuisine, cooking and food trends from 3,000 years ago to the modern age. Held in Athens, Thessaloniki, Mycenae, Crete and other locations, the exhibitions will showcase ancient recipes, cooking utensils, and food prices compiled by the country’s leading museum experts. «Though no written sources from the Bronze Age exist, we have been able to analyze residue left in ancient vessels to make the recipes,» said an official at the ministry’s department for museums, exhibitions and educational programs, which has overall responsibility for the initiative that began yesterday. «I actually cooked a few of these recipes myself, from the subsequent Classical Age,» she said. «The figs with almonds, and the balls of honey with sesame seeds were particularly tasty. Some meat soups eaten by the ancients are similar to the ones Greeks cook today, but there is also a Bronze Age recipe for wine with barley and sprinkled cheese that I wouldn’t want to try,» the ministry official added. In the capital, the Numismatic Museum – based in the Athens home of 19th century German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, discoverer of Troy – will track the cost of food through the centuries, from the price of grain in ancient Athens and eggs in Rome to apples in the Byzantine Empire. «The cost of food has been a basic concern for centuries, and remains so today,» says museum director Despina Evgenidou. «This is also an opportunity for us to provide information on the daily earnings of a builder on the Parthenon or a Roman legionary… and show how much of that money was spent on food, a home or a plot of land,» she told AFP. In the central Greek city of Volos, the local archaeological museum will be hosting a workshop on the diet of athletes in antiquity, while the archaeological museum in Mycenae will inaugurate a display of ancient utensils. The Jewish Museum in Athens will offer recipes from the Greek Jewish community, while the Maritime Museum in the port of Piraeus tracks the sea routes that brought now-staple foodstuffs such as potatoes, spices, tea and cocoa to Europe. «We will also be talking about the legends surrounding these foodstuffs,» says exhibit organizer Haris Tortorelis. Elsewhere, the Kaisariani Monastery near Athens will give a glimpse into the dietary habits of the Byzantines, while across town a private exhibition venue invites children to a workshop themed on the cuisine of the Minoans, the mysterious Bronze Age civilization that flourished on the island of Crete over 3,000 years ago. The exhibitions and shows are part of European Heritage Days (EHD’s), an annual celebration from August to November organized in 49 countries under the auspices of the Council of Europe and the European Commission.