DO YOU EAT GREEK?
Do you eat Greek?
By Bob Nicolaides e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
MELAS ZOMOS TO IMAM BAILDI: CAN WE FIND THE MISSING LINK?
You must admit that the eternal question since the beginning of time has been what came first, the chicken or the egg. Being aware that there’s no more difficult riddle to solve that this simple one, one must embark on a very difficult journey, searching for answers as to what happened to the ancient Hellenic Cuisine. Or in the very least, the food digested by all those Archons of the Archdiocese of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire elite, just before the Ottoman hordes replaced law and order with chaos and disparagement. There are those who say that this whole kitchen was recorded for posterity by a Hellene by the name of Tselemndes, who actually gave the dishes Turkish names as opposed to Greek because there were more Turks buying his book than the recently liberated Hellenes, most of whom could not even read. Besides writing the book in Greek, Tselemendes wrote in Turkish because it made business sense.
We are not to deal with matters of the state here. We will rather opt to analyze how suddenly, without warning, Imam Baildi, Bourek, and Ekmek Kadaif replaced our noble dining habits, and persist way past Independence and Reconstruction. Names like Yalantzi Dolma which in no way can be confused with, say, Ambrosia and Nectar, or even as a poor substitute the indicative of simplicity, Melas Zomos. Grant you, there’s a Hellenic name for what is known in culinary circles as the Turkish Kebab, whether it is Shish, Hal, or Kofta. But whether you call it Souvlaki or kebab, it never ceases retaining its Turkish, or if you please, its wider, mid-eastern character.
So what then is purely Hellenic? Because I am sure that our glorious ancestor, be they of the Golden Age of Pericles or of the mystifying Byzantine era-which automatically attaches glimpses of Romanesque cuisine-had to eat and eat hearty.
No, my friends, this isn’t ancient history in no terms whatsoever. This is an issue which ought to concern way more scholars than it actually does. For what we really have as testimonials of the ancient Hellenic Cuisine is fragmented bits, but by no way the wholesome picture we should’ve had.
One of these fragmentations, is without doubt the dish known even today as Kakavia!
So what is Kakavia?
Kakavia is a soup, made of bits of fish and seafood, which is usually prepared in a pot which is called Kakavi, a dish which has survived for at least three millenia without any substantial changes made during all this time. But as much that we’d want to attach great importance to kakavi as a sample of our own pure Cuisine, we are prevented by another nationality which has turned this, our own product into their national institution.
Who then are these perpetrators who have stolen our dish and get all the credit to boot? To start with, they are no perpetrators. For the French have gained the right to use Bouillabaise Marseillese as their own creation.
But how did the French get hold of Kakavia in the first place to be able to copy it and give it their own name? The answer to this question is that they didn’t. If Bouillabaise -or Kakavia-passes for a French dish, is not the= fault of the French. It is entirely our own doing.
Grant you, there’s no chef today who would give up his recipes for any price, let alone allowing one of his dishes to jump from Hellenic to the French Cuisine. But this happened so long ago, when no one cared particularly who was taking whose dish away from whom.
Kakavia traveled with the first Hellene Colonists from mainland Hellas to the southern coast of France, the Cote D’Azur as it is known today, where they built colonies. The most well known Colony they built was Massalia, or as it is known today, Marseilles. They were the ones who brought the pot called Kakavi to France-the French call it Bouillabe- in order to prepare their famous fish soup, Kakavia-later known as Bouillaise-so far away from home.
The rest, as they say, is History.
Kakavia traveled with the first Hellene Colonists from mainland Hellas to the southern coast of France, the Cote D’Azur as it is known today, where they built colonies. The most well known Colony they built was Massalia, or as it is known today, Marseilles.