Greek civilization began thousands of years ago, and much of their culture has continued into current day, such as certain aspects of mathematics, engineering, and architecture. However, much of the Greek food we eat today is not the same as what the ancient Greeks were eating back then because the ingredients that we are familiar with were not available. What has continued over time, however, is the Greeks’ philosophy of cooking: use local and fresh ingredients and cook them in simple and unadulterated ways.
Ancient Greek Pantry Staples
The foods of ancient Greece didn't include many that are considered standard Greek ingredients today, like lemons, tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes. Because of the introduction of so many new fruits and vegetables to this Mediterranean country, the Greek cuisine has changed quite radically over time. In ancient Greece, the basic foods were cereals, legumes, fruit, fish, game, oil, and wine. Many of these ingredients are still part of the Greek diet, however, and the use of fresh and local ingredients along with olive oil and herbs are part of the Greek way of cooking.
As several of our current cooking methods were not invented thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks cooked their food using what was available around them. The most common cooking methods were done over an open fire, such as roasting on a spit, boiling, frying, simmering, stewing, and grilling, as well as baking in wood-burning ovens.
The earliest cooking pots were made of clay, and similar pots (glazed and fired) are still used today in many parts of the world.
Out of necessity (because refrigeration was nonexistent), in addition to cooking, ancient Greeks preserved foods by smoking, drying, salting, and storing in syrups and fat. Foods were often stored with a topping of oil to keep air out.
Preparing and Eating Meals
Similar to how men take charge of the grill in modern times, the ancient Greek men were typically in charge of roasting the meats on spits or over coals, while the women were responsible for boiling foods and baking them in the oven.
When it came time to enjoy the meal, aristocratic people sat or lounged on couches set before low tables laden with food and ate in a communal style. For the common man and aristocrat alike, utensils were not used; everything was eaten with the hands. Bread had many purposes at the dinner table—it was used to scoop out thick soups, as a napkin to clean hands, and, when thrown on the floor, was food for the slaves or the dogs.