Cheese, wine, honey and olive oil - four of Greece's best known contributions to culinary culture - were already well known four thousand years ago. Remains of honeycombs and of cheeses have been found under the volcanic ash of the Santorini eruption of 1627 BC. Over the millennia, Greek food diversified and absorbed neighbouring traditions, yet retained its own distinctive character.
In Siren Feasts, Andrew Dalby provides the first serious social history of Greek food. He begins with the tunny fishers of the neolithic age, and traces the story through the repertoire of classical Greece, the reputations of Lydia for luxury and of Sicily and South Italy for sybaritism, to the Imperial synthesis of varying traditions, with a look forward to the Byzantine cuisine and the development of the modern Greek menu. The apples of the Hesperides turn out to be lemons, and great favour attaches to Byzantine biscuits.
Fully documented and comprehensively illustrated, scholarly yet immensely readable, Siren Feasts demonstrates the social construction placed upon different types of food at different periods (was fish a luxury item in classical Athens, though disdained by Homeric heroes?). It places diet in an economic and agricultural context; and it provides a history of mentalities in relation to a subject which no human being can ignore.
Andrew Dalby trained as a classicist and linguist and is now librarian of the London Goodenough Trust for Overseas Graduates
'A must. Even if you didn't that this was the book you were waiting for, you will know when it is in your hands. The sensationally good cover is both alluring and surprising; and the same may be said of Andrew Dalby's text.' - Petit Propo Wlinaires
'It will surely remain for some time the definitive work on Greek food and gastronomy, and as a standard reference work, it will be regularly plundered via its quite excellent indexes every time anyone wants to know, as Dalby himself once did, how the Greeks ate.' - Times Literary Supplement
'Siren Feasts is a fascinating book and the first of its kind. It is not only for the scholar - although scholarly in approach - but also for the food enthusiast.' - Rena Salaman, Hampstead and Highgate Express
'No review can do justice to the packed detail in this unique book, drawing on the archaeology of prehistoric sites, the inventories of shipwrecked cargoes, ruined storerooms, vase-painting and literature' - Financial Times
'This is one of those books you'll find yourself using time and time again and it will seldom let you down. I was also impressed by the high standard of production and by the illustrations' - Greece & Rome Volume 43
'If you're at all interested in what the ancient Greeks ate, this is the book.' - LA Times