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Eat Like an Ancient Greek Philosopher: The Aristotle Menu

Roman copy of the Greek bronze sculpture of Aristotle. Credit: Public domain

According to Aristotle, the world was based on five elements—earth, fire, water, air, and ether. Culinary professor Giorgos Palisidis has now created what he calls the “Aristotelian Menu,” based on foods and ingredients from northern Greece, the birthplace of the great philosopher.

The recipes Palisidis creates nowadays are based on archaeological findings regarding the ingredients ancient Greeks used in the kitchen. The dishes also combine ingredients from Chalkidiki from where the professor hails. The use of specific fruits, herbs, wines, honey, and other such ingredients was widespread at the time of Aristotle.

The menu of Aristotle

The culinary professor aimed to bring the diet of the ancients to today’s table, mainly as a good basis for a healthy diet.

Over the past three years, ten hotels and seven restaurants in the scenic Chalkidiki area have been serving the Aristotelian Menu.

“In the four elements of Empedocles’ theory—earth, water, fire and air, Aristotle added the ether, the fifth element, to describe the unborn, indestructible, unalterable, that which combines all in one substance,” Palisidis told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.

“At the same time, the references of the great Greek philosopher to the basic tastes of salty, sour, sweet and bitter were accompanied by recommendations for combining at least two of them at a time, aiming at the culmination of the taste, an explosive experience,” Palisidis said.

“This experience was later determined by the Japanese with the word ‘umami’ (which can be translated as ‘pleasant delicious flavor’) to describe an intensity of flavor similar to that found in foods such as beef, saffron, yolk, cardamon, lamb, mushroom, and truffles,” added Palisidis.

The professor said that the original idea for the Aristotelian Menu came to him in 2016, the year Aristotle was celebrated.

The emphasis in the new diet was given to the fifth element, ether. In collaboration with the Chalkidiki Hotel Association, guests were invited to enjoy the four elements of nature (fire, through local gastronomy; air, through visits to places with a beautiful view; water, through seafood; and land, through wine, tsipouro, and olive oil).

Five elements and the secret of the ancient Greek philosopher’s diet

The next step was to discover the fifth element, the mystery that each visitor is invited to discover from his visit to Ancient Stageira, the birthplace of the philosopher and Aristotle Park.

Palisidis presented a model menu to apply the philosophy of Aristotle to the dining experience. The purpose was to provoke an experience by tasting dishes and products from the place where the great philosopher was born.

On this basis, the dinner table features five clay jars instead of dishes as the ancient Greeks cooked in clay pots.

Each of the elements of nature, as described by Aristotle, was represented by basic ingredients. For example, the air was represented by a bird; land with the wine produced by the vineyard; water by seawater; fire with the element that cooks the seafood; and ether with a flavor resulting from sun-dried fruits, honey, herbs, wine, and pezyme.

The corresponding dishes, served in restaurants in Chalkidiki, have attracted a great amount of interest by visitors. The owners of hotels and restaurants have welcomed the Aristotelian menu with enthusiasm, as they are easy to prepare and incorporate local, fresh ingredients characteristic of the region.

“The Aristotelian Menu is an ideal nutritional proposition for anyone as it combines the characteristics of the Mediterranean diet—foods rich in fiber, probiotics, antioxidants and trace elements, foods consumed raw like olives, and ease of preparation, as it does not require complex forms of cooking,” Palisidis states.

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