Cheese, wine, honey & olive oil—4 of Greece's best known contributions to culinary culture—were well known 4000 years ago. Remains of honeycombs & of cheeses have been found under the volcanic ash of the Santorini eruption of 1627 BCE. Over the millennia, Greek food diversified & absorbed neighboring traditions, yet retained its own distinctive character. In Siren Feasts, Andrew Dalby provides the 1st serious social history of Greek food. He begins with the tunny fishers of the neolithic age, & traces the story thru the repertoire of classical Greece, the reputations of Lydia for luxury & of Sicily & S. Italy for sybaritism, to the Imperial synthesis of varying traditions, with a look forward to the Byzantine cuisine & the development of the modern Greek menu. The apples of the Hesperides turn out to be lemons. Great favor attaches to Byzantine biscuits. Fully documented & comprehensively illustrated, scholarly yet readable, Siren Feasts demonstrates the social construction placed upon different types of food at different periods (was fish a luxury in classical Athens, tho disdained by Homeric heroes?). It places diet in an economic & agricultural context; & provides a history of mentalities in relation to a subject which no one can ignore.
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