WINE FOR THE SPIRIT…OLIVE OIL FOR THE BODY: THE GREEK MYTHS
Homer referred to Sicilian olive oil in his Odyssey, which he based largely on this island of volcanoes and vineyards. Indeed, today we believe olive oil was the sole food product exported by the Greeks, according to its availability in Solone, around the sixth century B.C. In fact, it was here that the conservation of olives in “salamoia”, or, in salt, began, and where whole and pitted olives were packed and shipped for arrival at the tables of the gourmands of the period.
The grain here is also of the highest quality, as the characteristics of durum wheat make it optimal both for long-term preservation, and immediate use for bread-making. It is said that the rich taste of the bread was an inspirational factor in the Romans’ decision to fight for the land that later became known as the “bread basket of Rome.”
Eventually, it was Sicilian grain that was used to make the durum wheat cakes that sustained many legions of seafarers and conquerors that covered the whole of the known world…
Archestrato of Gela (IV century BC), wrote “Hedypatheia” or “Gastronomy” The first gourmet book in the world.
As a young poet Archestratus was disciple of the most famous Epicurus, becoming an Expert in the art of pleasure. In his poem Archestratus tells of his long journeys in search of the best food and the finest wines. It also deals with the bread, fish, the production and storage of wine and food. It focuses mainly on fish, indicating the best quality, the places of origin, the most famous species and the specific fishing seasons. The first gourmet book in the world.
Along with the grain from Sicily, the ancient Romans exported olives, fish and cheeses in terracotta vases they called vasa salsamenteria or “delicatessen vases“, made from the rich Sicilian earth. Interestingly, the salsamenteria of the time later came to be called salumeria, which is used today to mean “delicatessen”.
Unfortunately, the ancient Romans preferred the cultivation of grain to that of vines, which led to the abandonment of many vineyards and also the deforestation of large areas of land in order to make use of the wood needed for warships.
Plato (philosophical disciple of Socrates, Athens, 427-347 B.C.) write about the lifestyle and diet of the Greeks of Syracuse, which in his opinion, was overloaded with agricultural products, including cheeses, olives, onions, figs, myrtle and roasted chestnuts, often accompanied by wine. Remember Symposium means “drink together“!