3 Byzantine cuisine

Byzantine cuisine

Byzantine cuisine was marked by a merger of Greek and Roman gastronomy. The development of the Byzantine empire and trade brought in spices, sugar and new vegetables to Greece. Cooks experimented with new combinations of food, creating two styles in the process. These were the Eastern (Asia Minor and the Eastern Aegean), consisting of Byzantine cuisine supplemented by trade items, and a leaner style primarily based on local Greek tradition.


Byzantine food consumption was based around class. The Imperial Palace was a metropolis of spices and exotic recipes; guests were entertained with fruits, honey-cakes and syrupy sweetmeats. Ordinary people ate more conservatively. The core diet consisted of bread, vegetables, pulses, and cereals prepared in varied ways. Salad was very popular; to the amazement of the Florentines, the Emperor John VIII Palaiologos asked for it at most meals on his visit in 1439. Byzantine people produced various cheeses, including "anthotiro" or "kefalintzin". They also relished shellfish and fish, both fresh and salt-water. They prepared eggs to make famous omelettes — called "sphoungata", i.e. "spongy" — mentioned by Theodoros Prodromos. Every household also kept a supply of poultry. Byzantines obtained other kinds of meat by hunting, a favourite and distinguished occupation of men. They usually hunted with dogs and hawks, though sometimes employed trapping, netting, and bird-liming. Larger animals were a more expensive and rare food. Citizens slaughtered pigs at the beginning of winter and provided their families with sausages, salt pork, and lard for the year. Only upper middle and higher Byzantines could afford lamb. They seldom ate beef, as they used cattle to cultivate the fields. Middle and lower class citizens in cities such as Constantinople and Thessaloniki digested the offerings of the Taverna. The most common form of cooking was boiling, a tendency which sparked a derisive Byzantine maxim—"The lazy cook prepares everything by boiling." Garum sauce in all its varieties was especially favored as a condiment.

Thanks to the location of Constantinople between popular trade routes, Byzantine cuisine was augmented by cultural influences from several locales—such as Lombard Italy, the Persian Empire, and an emerging Arabic Empire. The resulting melting pot hugely impacted Ottoman cuisine and therefore both modern Greek cuisine and Turkish cuisine, as well as general food in the Middle East. Sauces still eaten today, such as Tzatziki, testify to this end.


Macedonia was renowned for its wines, served for upper class Byzantines. During the crusades and after, western Europeans valued costly Greek wines. The best known varieties were Cretan wines from muscat grapes, Romania or Rumney (exported from Methoni in the western Peloponnese), and Malvasia or Malmsey (likely exported from Monemvasia). Orthodox Christianity was closely associated with the consumption of wine. The dogma of metousiosis (or transubstantiation) is based on the belief that during the Divine Liturgy, the wine is transformed into the blood of Christ.

See also

*Medieval cuisine


*Dalby, Andrew (2003), "Flavours of Byzantium", Totnes, England: Prospect Books, ISBN 1903018145

External links

* [http://userweb.suscom.net/%7Eapolloniavoss/projects/Byz/Byz_food.htm Byzantine Food on the Web]
* [http://www.godecookery.com/byznrec/byznrec.htm Byzantine Foods]

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