In brief: “Greece became independent in the early 1830s, after a prolonged war of liberation/secession from the Ottoman empire. Like the contemporaneous revolts of the Carbonari in Italy and France (1820, 1821) and the victorious uprising of the anti-monarchist Spaniards (1820–3), it was a war fueled by the ideas of the French Revolution, which the diaspora Greek merchants of the secret society Philiki Etairia (Association of Friends) had enthusiastically espoused* in order to bring down the Ottoman ancien régime. It was a war carried out by the “damned of the earth” (mostly landless peasants) in the poor and inconspicuous southwestern corner of the sultans’ possessions that had fired the imagination of liberals and radicals all over post-Napoleonic, counterrevolutionary Europe. An eight-year confrontation with the Porte** (1821–9), with many ups and downs and considerable infighting, ended in the defeat of the radical elements that had started the revolt. Territorial expansion was the compensatory mirage offered by the new rulers, King Otto and his Bavarian army, since Greece, as the first Balkan nation to achieve statehood, was allowed to exist only as a monarchy, and it ventured into the modern world under the watchful eyes of the three Protecting Powers – England, France, and Russia – who carefully monitored the first steps of this energetic newcomer into the china shop of the Eastern question.”*** (Yanis Yanoulopoulos)
Not long after the establishment of the modern Greek state, Athens, the new capital city, had become « a heterogeneous anomaly; the Greeks in their wild costume are jostled in the streets by Englishmen, Frenchmen, Italians, Dutchmen, Spaniards; and Bavarians, Russians, Danes, and sometimes Americans. European shops invite purchasers, by the side of eastern bazaars, coffeehouses, and billiard-rooms; and French and German restaurants are opened all over the city» (1838, J. L. Stephens, Incidents of travel in Greece, Turkey, Russia, and Poland ). The cosmpolitism and modernization had begun to affect Greek urban centers as early as the eighteenth century. At the same time, food began to be transformed into a matter of prestige.
The first modern cookbook written by Greek author was printed in Constantinople in 1863.* It was almost entirely French oriented, since the writer N. Sarantis created it responding to the impact of the French gastronomy on the Greek society of Asia Minor.
What is important about the cookbook is that in addition to recipes taken or adapted from French cuisine, Sarantis overturned a few French recipes with Greek nationalist ideologies. Inspired by ancient and contemporary history, he also created dishes named after Kleopatra, Archestratos and important figures of Greek War of Independence, in order for us “not to forget those brave men”. Three fish dishes were designed in honor of three Greek Admirals of naval forces in the Greek Revolution.
Food can certainly define a national identity. Sarantis, using recipes and ingredients of French haute cuisine, probably imagined the emergence of an elite Greek cuisine which could be high, almost as much as French cuisine, but fundamentally related to national character. Did those recipes survive for a long period of time? Sarantis’ dishes had no future. It seems that it was too early to construct a cuisine where particular foods would be considered emblematic of the nation.
ADMIRAL’S MIAOULIS SEA BASS
Andreas Vokos (Miaoulis) (1768 – 24 June 1835), Greek admiral and politician, who commanded Greek naval forces during the Greek War of Independence. (commons.wikimedia.org)
Sea bass, lard, egg white, champagne, butter. Served garnished with lobster tail, ragout of mussels, shrimps and mushrooms, cuttlefish ink, green cucumbers, fish jelly and crayfish butter.
ADMIRAL’S SACHTOURIS SEA BASS
George Sachtouris (1783 – 1841). Greek admiral.
Sea bass, lobster butter, 1 egg white, green cucumbers, lard, butter. Served garnished with ragout of oysters, crayfish tail, sauce made with lobster butter, sauteed red mullet fillets. The fish head is filled with lobster which is garnished with lobster croquettes and sardine butter.
ΑDMIRAL’S KANARIS FLOUNDER
Konstantinos Kanaris (1793 or 1795 – 2 September 1877).
Greek admiral, freedom fighter and politician.
Flounder, farce ink, 1 egg white, green cucumbers, mushrooms, lemon juice. Served with pea ragout, bechamel sauce and oysters.
*Sarantis N., Singrama mageirikis is tin aploellinikin… 1863, Constaninople.