Monday, January 6, 2014

Going Byzantine

A glimpse into the diet of the rich and poor of Constantinople in Komninoi time (11th – 12th century AD).
Clockwise from top left: silignites, the whitest wheat bread (katharos artos was the most expensive form of white bread and was divided into two categories, silignites and semidalites. The former was made with a very finely ground wheat flour.); semidalites; ryparos artos is whole meal bread; whole meal breads made from a mix of barley and durum wheat; rye bread.

If the hagiographers of 11th and 12th century maintained the traditional ideal of fasting, less conservative sources give a wealth of information about both the increased interest on eating and the greater availability of foodstuffs. The variety of vegetables, fruits and condiments- black pepper, caraway, honey, olive oil, vinegar, salt, mushrooms, celery, leeks, lettuce,  chicory, spinach, turnips, eggplant, cabbage, white beets, almonds, pomegranates, nuts, apples, lentils, raisins, etc. -listed as food of the poor of Constantinople by  Prodromοs (d. c. 1166, Poèmes prodr. nο.2.38-45) mirrors both the interest on good eating and the availability of dishes. Of course above all,  the food in Constantinople of Komnenoi existed as a synthesis of what had gone before, but a synthesis enriched by new ingredients and many innovations.

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