Ancient Cretan Cuisine: Food of the Minoans

A Diet That Spans Millennia

Thanks to the residue left behind in various storage containers (pithoi) and other vessels, archaeologists have been able to discern what kind of food and drinks the Minoans ate and drank. Unsurprisingly, a lot of it reflects what we now call the Mediterranean diet, which is rich with fresh fish and vegetables. As a Cretan-Pontian Greek person who has indulged in countless delicious feasts on the island, I smiled to myself thinking that some of what I’ve eaten (and thoroughly enjoyed) is what my ancestors have indulged in as well…

A picture of a Cretan salad called horiatiki salata (χωριάτικη σαλάτα).
✔️olives, cheese made from goat’s milk (now feta), olive oil, wheat bread
❌tomatoes, cucumber, onion

Eating and Drinking like The Minoans

Outside of imports, this is what was available to the Minoans locally (in no way is this all-exhaustive):

Fruit: figs, grapes
Vegetables: lettuce, leafy greens, celery, artichoke, radish, leeks
Nuts: almonds, pistachios
Vegan protein: lentils, beans (garbanzo and fava), peas
Grains: several types of wheat, barley, oats, cereal
Meat & Fish: squid, octopus barnacles, cuttlefish, sea snails, sheep, goat, land birds, and domesticated deer
Dairy: goat cheese, but no milk (no wonder the lactose intolerance rate is so high in Greece)
Drinks: herbal tea, resinated wine, pine resin, barely beer, honey mead
Sweetener (and deity offerings): honey
Spices: saffron, coriander, cumin, anise, rosemary

Stews seemed to be a staple, and while the following is a modern photo of a Greek fish stew (ψάρι με βλίτα), this is more or less what you can expect a potentially affluent Ancient Cretan to be eating for dinner:

Photo by Giorgos Dracopoulos

And the photo below is part of a feast I had at a taverna near The Palace of Knossos after my daylong adventure there. As you can see, those modern Cretan specialties are definitely not Minoan ones, but there’s an overlap: seafood, olive oil, feta, olives… And if we throw imports into the mix, perhaps they even had tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and potatoes as well.

Based off that hefty Minoan food list, I’d like to come up with some recipes that are Minoan-inspired in nature or unique spins to current Cretan recipes. When I do (and they end up tasting more than passable), I’ll post them. 🙂

Sources
www.explorecrete.com/archaeology/minoan-herbs.html
Minoans: Peoples of the Past by J. Lesley Fitton

*The first two photos are from Pixabay.com and the featured photo is from Pexels.com

One thought on “Ancient Cretan Cuisine: Food of the Minoans

  1. Pingback: Honoring My Cretan Ancestors with a Minoan-inspired Ritual | Minoan Magissa

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