FISH SOUP FOR THOUGHT

fish-soup2 

Behind this fish -soup there is a long history of fear and courage.
Because, in the ancient thought the sea was a hostile, lonely world with sea monsters and fishes which were  frightening to humans….  the only animal eaten in eastern Mediterranean that could eat people. Dolphins were an exception of course.

scylla

Scylla. Apulian vase. 4th cent. BC

Such negative feeling had a profound effect on visual arts and literature.
“Lie there among the fishes” says Achilles, having thrown the body of his fallen enemy into the river, ” who will lick the blood from your wound and gloat over it; your mother shall not lay you on any bier to mourn you, but the eddies of Scamander shall bear you into the broad bosom of the sea. There shall the fishes feed on the fat of Lycaon as they dart under the dark ripple of the waters…” (Homer Iliad 21.122-7. trans. Butler S. )

“Under the dark ripple of the waters” was a place of death, where drowned mariners were devoured by fish. Moreover, fish was considered a threat not only  to humans but also to weaker sea-creatures, including fishes …. the  only animal that eat each other. “Among fishes neither justice is of any account nor is there any mercy or love, for all the fish that swim are bitter enemies to each other. The stronger ever devours the weaker; this against that swims fraught with doom and one for another furnishes food. Some overpower the weaker by force of jaws and strength; others have venemous mouths; others have spines wherewith to defend them with deadly blows.” ( 177-180 AD, Oppian, On fishing, 2.43-50, trans. Mair)

Behind this soup there is a long history of poverty.

fishermen

 Fishermen. Phylakopi III, 16th ca. BC. Milos Island.  

Being fisherman implied that  land was so poor that could not feed its inhabitants.  In Greek literature  fishermen suffer from poverty, hard life  and very low social status. Dedications and epigrams bring before us their hambler life  in their thatched huts  or out at the sea.

Hard is the life the weary fisher finds
Who trusts his floating mansion to the winds ;
Whose daily food the fickle sea maintains.
Unchanging labour and uncertain gains.

Moschus 169 (2nd cent. BC. Collections from the Greek anthology. Robert Bland, 1813)

However, it seems that  fishermen who  supplied the market and rich people with quality  sea-food  had the opportunities for enrichment.

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Flatfish Painter, Apulian red-figured fish plate ca. 350–325 BC. (commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fish_plate_Louvre_K590.jpg)

 Because, quality fish was very expensive,  a luxurious delicacy, a symbol of wealth. During all periods of antiquity, the  great value of fish  as a wealth symbol was equally opposed to the stereotype of fisherman’s poverty. 

Behind this soup there is a long history of  technology and commerce.
The ancient fishermen might had an abundant catch only few times a year, however imagine that the Aegean fishermen of 10,000 years ago were  able to catch 50-200 kg tuna in open water.  But  the fish is perishable. Hence, as fishing technology became more and more efficient,  technologies of preservation of fish and commerce  were developed too.   

Fishermen did provide not only a staple element but also a significant factor in the ancient economy.

The thick fish soup (Pichti Psarosoupa, Πηχτή Ψαρόσουπα)

1 kg fresh cod

1 large onion, peeled

2 tomatoes

6 carrots, peeled

1 cup of celery, chopped

3/4 cup of celery root, peeled and halved

1/2 kg. potatoes, peeled and halved

6 small zucchinis

1/3 cup of Arborio rice or Greek Karolina

2 tbs virgin olive oil + some more 

lemon juice

4 lemon halves

salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper

Put fish, onions and tomatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them and bring to boil. Add salt to taste. When the fish is ready strain it through a strainer, debone it and set it aside.  Add zucchinis, carrots  celery, root, potatoes and olive oil and cook until tender. When they are ready strain them. In a blender puree a third of the vegetables and  a third of fish meat. Set aside. Pur the rice into the broth and cook. When it is almost done add the puree and cook for 1-2 minutes. Serve the soup in bowls, season with pepper and sprinkle with lemon juice.

Serve fish and vegetables on a platter, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve with lemon halves on the side.

Or put some fish and vegetables in individuals bowls and laddle over the soup. 

Fish Soup on Foodista

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MAGEIROS, The sacrifice & the cuisine.

Epidromos painter, 510 - 500 B.C. (Louvre Museum, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sacrifice_boar_Louvre_G112.jpg)
Epidromos painter, 510 - 500 B.C. (Louvre Museum, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sacrifice_boar_Louvre_G112.jpg)

 

“Mageiros” in Greek means  cook (the) and “mageirevo” I cook.
One of earliest attestations of the word is a dedicative inscription by a mageiros in Epidavros (early 5th century, IG, IV2, I.144).
However, the mageiros was not primarily a cook but a man hired to perform the act of slaughter for the animal- sacrifice and roast the sacrificial victim. Since his tasks were extended to reselling the meat and the offals of the carcass he became professional butcher, too. Not long after, the word mageiros included the sense of cook. The mageiros was hired  for civic feasts and for private dinners, thus his role combined the sacred, the commercial and the food hedonism.  Some mageiroi became so famous that they acted as celebrities for hire.  
A characteristic of  these inseparable roles (sacrificer/ butcher/ cook) is  the use of knife, the ancient Greek machaira,  a word  etymologically related to the word mageiros.
In ancient Greece the woman could not hold the knife to sacrifice, it is not surprising then that the mageiros was always man.

See also: Sacrifice revisited.

NOTHING DIFFICULT ABOUT HYDROMELI. (Except that you have to wait more than a year to taste it.)

But yesterday I finally opened a bottle of my own hydromeli.

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The drink which was called hydromeli (water- honey) by the Greeks and aquamulsum by the Romans is found in many cultures throughout history, and is also known as mead.
It can be regarded as the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man, and the simplest of course.

Hydromeli preceded the wine in Greece for a long time. The Orphists in one of their favored poetic version of the stories of the Gods, describe the cruelity of Zeus who castrated his father Kronos when he was drunk on honey of wild bees. Of course Kronos could never drunk on honey but he could drunk on hydromeli.

I made the hydromeli using the honey from melomeli (quinces in honey), according to the instructions given by the Greek physician Dioscorides.
Thus, I had to make the melomeli first.

Materia Medica de Dioscorides, Iraq, Ecole de Bagdad

“ And Melomeli, which also is called Cydonomeli (Quince honey) is made as follows. The quinces with their seeds removed, are put into good store of honey, so that they are covered. This becomes good after a year, being like mulsum (honey wine). […] (De materia medica)” 29.

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I used thyme honey and 2 quinces, which after almost a year in the jar were softer, but not very soft, and their perfume was absorbed by the honey.

Then, it was time for the hydromeli, which was the simplicity itself.

‘Hydromelon is made as follows: one metretes (apr. 8.6696 gallons) of melomeli of quinces is mixed with 2 metretes (eighteen) of boiled water and sunned in the days under the Dog star (from the beginning of July to the beginning of September). […] (Dioscorides 30)

I mixed 500 gr. quince -honey with 1 kg boiled water and I left the mixture under the sun. After four months I have a very drinkable sparkling hydromeli.

quince2

As for the two quinces, I made a honey-sweet jam with them, so autumnal in taste.

Both hydromeli and melomeli are recommended by Dioscorides for treating the stomach ache, dysentery, liver ailments, kidney disorders, and painful frequent urination.