EDIBLE LITTLE SHOES (Papoutsakia, παπουτσάκια)

Is Aphrodite’s raised sandal a tease or is she intending to slap the goat-legged Pan with it, because she is not interested in an erotic adventure with him?


 100 BC.  National Archaeological Museum of Athens.*


Beautifully decorated sandals were traditionally included in bride’s gifts. For jewelry, perfumes and sandals  provided her with the tools to maintain her beauty of the night of her marriage.


Greek red-figure amphora with Hippodameia preparing for her wedding, ca 425 BC.
(Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)


 Homer called Dawn “Eos with pale- rose fingers”  but Sappho dressed her bare beet in golden sandals: “Standing by my bed / in gold sandals / Dawn that very / moment awoke me”.**


Eos (Dawn) pursuing Tithonus.
(Attic red-figure oenochoe by Achilles painter. 470-460 BC, Louvre Museum.) 


And there were sandals with marked soles. Walking the dusty streets, the ancient prostitutes would leave footprints with  ΑΚΟΛΟΥΘΙ / AKOLOUTHI (“Follow me”) written on the ground.

File:Reveller courtesan BM E44.jpg

Tondo of an Attic red-figured cup. (ca 490 BC. British Museum) 


Elaborate Byzantine shoes, so brighlty colored but almost hidden by the long draped clothes….
Red was reserved for the Emperor and for women’s footwear in art. 


 Theodora. Mosaic at San Vitale in Ravenna. ca 546 CE  


Fleeting glimpses of low cut slippers…


Maiden of Livadeia, 1825.
(Dupre’s Voyage a Athenes et a Constantinople ou collection des portraits, de vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.  


Did the Queen and the Maids of honour wear boots or small heel silk bow shoes?


 Queen Amalia, ca. 1850
(Philibert Perraud, ΦΑ_1_658, PhotoArchive, Mpenaki Museum)


A precious new pair of shoes, just after World War II.


 New shoes by Voula Papaioannou  (PhotoArchive, Mpenaki Museum)


This is the one who got the perfect legs for such fire red velvet shoes. 




A shoe that  is not made for walking  and certainly doesn’t  make every man pay close attention at women’s legs….  


 Though, if  prepared with thoughtful care, it offers an unforgettable pleasure… 


AUBERGINE LITTLE SHOES (Melitzanes papoutsakia) 


8 small aubergines

4 tbs virgin olive oil


300 gr minced beef

300 gr minced lamb

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium onions, finely chopped

3 medium ripe peeled, cored tomatoes, finely chopped

 5-7  tbs virgin olive oil

2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cinnamon stick

1/3 tsp sugar

sea salt to taste

ground pepper


 1  2/3 cups milk

3 tbs all purpose- flour

2 tbs butter

sea salt to taste

ground pepper

3/4 cup grated graviera or Gruyere cheese

  Cut off the stems of the aubergines, then cut in half, lengthwise. With a  spoon, discard the pulp of the aubergine, leaving a shell about 1 cm thick. Salt and leave in a colander for 1 hour to rid of bitterness. Wash well and dry. Brush both sides with olive oil and roast until just soft. (Traditionally they are sautéed  in olive oil).

Sauté the onions in 2 tbs of olive oil. When they soften add the minced meat and sauté briefly. Add the  wine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, cinnamon stick, sugar, salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the minced meat is tender. Add a little water if necessary.  The sauce should be lightly moist and strongly flavored. Remove from the heat, remove cinnamon stick and stir in parsley and half cheese.
In a saucepan mix the butter with flour over low heat. Stir with a wire whisk. Remove from the heat and add  milk slowly, stirring constantly. Place again over low heat and add salt and pepper.  Stir with the whisk until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the other half of cheese. Allow to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the aubergines on a baking pan and spoon in the filling. Spoon over  1 – 1 1/2 tbs bechamel sauce.  Cook on the bottom oven rank, until the aubergines are soft and the bechamel top is  browned (about 45 minutes – 1 hour). Serve warm.



  2 large onions, finely chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large green pepper, minced

2 1/2 cups tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup walnuts, blanched, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/3 cup currants (optional)

ground cinnamon

5 tbs virgin olive oil

sea salt and ground pepper

3/4 cup grated graviera or Gruyere cheese.

In a skillet, heat 2 tbs of olive oil and add the onions and green pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, 3tbs olive oil, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Simmer until sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in currants, walnuts and cheece. Let cool slightly before filling.


 *The group of statues bears a solemn votive inscription: “Dionysios, son of Zeno, son of Theodoros of Berytus, benefactor, [dedicates this] on behalf of himself and of his children to the ancestral gods”.

**SAPPHO  A new translation,  by M. Barnard, 1958.



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. 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. 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.


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