Traditional foods of Greece: hyacinth bulbs.

Yes, I am a bulb eater.
And yes, wild blue hyacinth is my favorite bulb.
Not feeling the enthousiasm?

File:Wild Hyacinth (Hyacinthoides non-scriptus) - - 801268.jpg

The bitter taste of  bulbs (muscari comosum, Gr. volvoi) is much appreciated in Greece ever since classical times. They also had a good reputation as an aphrodisiac amongst ancient Greeks and Byzantines.

If you come across them in the farmer’s market, please buy them! It is really worth it to try them out. Clean them and if they are big cut a cross in the root base of each of them. Leave them for 2 seconds- 2 minutes in boiling water (the boiling time depends on their size). Then put them in a large bowl of water. Change the water every 3 hours for one day and one night.   Drain the bulbs in a colander,  put them in a jar, add some peppercorns and cover with good quality wine vinegar.
Serve them with virgin olive oil and garnish with chopped spring onions and dill or with chopped fresh garlic and mint. Their mildly bitter taste makes a truly wonderful combination with those flavorings.

In Crete, where you find a plethora of dishes based on foraged wild plants and roots, volvoi are cooked together with lamb, pork, snails octopus or cuttlefish.

But of all bulb recipes I have ever made, there is one really favourite that was worth my effort to set up its proportions. Philemon, the comic poet, suggests this preparation of bulbs in Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus: “Look, if you please, at the bulb, and see what lavish expense it requires to have its reputation — cheese, honey, sesame-seed, oil, onion, vinegar, silphium. Taken by itself alone it is poor and bitter.” Homemade goat cheese, thyme honey and a pinch of asafoetida powder, virgin olive oil, homemade wine vinegar, onion, sesame seeds and slightly bitter bulbs make something truly memorable.


Before the (male) chef became a chef, he was…

Who rules the roast might rule the seas

Before the (male) chef….

Lefteris Lazarou, Varoulko’s head chef

….became a chef,

Nicholas Tselementes, the moderniser of Greek cuisine.  

He was a chef for many years at the St. Moritz Hotel. 

he was an archimageiros (chief- cook).

An archimageiros in restaurants, often based in fine hotels,

 Cooks  (mageiroi) in the kitchen of  Aktaion hotel ~Palaion Faliron

or an archimageiros on a ship….

…. an artist in the kitchens of the rich.

He was  a mageiros in Byzantine inns (pandoheia)

Βυζαντινό πανδοχείο βρέθηκε στα Τέμπη

Byzantine inn (Tempi, 829-842)
Photo: Vasiliki Paschali – ΑPΕ-BΕ

 and in  Graeco-Roman taverns.

Reconstruction of a Roman taverna from Demetrias /Thessaly (Museum of Volos)

He was an excellent cook in the kitchen of the rich,

in Greece

Casa Romana / Cos island

in Rome

where Greek cookery stood in high regard and an archimageiros could rise to great heights of civic importance
“the conquered thus conquered the conquerors”.

During the Hellenistic and Classical periods, a mageiros was a high- skilled cook*, a culinary specialist, a butcher and a tradesman (demiourgos).**

Of course, he was an artist in the kithchen of the rich.

But before a mageiros became a mageiros, he was a priest
responsible for  slaughtering, roasting and dispersal of sacrificial meat.

Preparation for symposium~ Evrytios krater (Corinthian black -figure krater)
*Cookery was recognized as techne (art or skill).
** It was this time that commerce filled the tables with white bread, abundant fish and vegetables, and Persian banquets had a profound influence on Athenian eating habits.