Food, for people in Ancient Greece, was what separated people from animals, and from the gods. Gods didn’t need to eat, and people did. Animals ate their food raw, but people cooked their food and were civilized. Civilized Greek people only ate fresh meat if it had been sacrificed to a god, or had been hunted in the wild. Like other Mediterranean people, though, Greek people ate a lot of fish and shellfish, octopus and squid (none of which had to be sacrificed to a god). People thought of the god Dionysos as being part of the wine they drank, and they thought of Persephone as being part of their bread.
People also ate a lot of vegetables, especially lentils, chickpeas, green peas, and other beans. They also ate cabbage, parsnips and onions, garlic and leeks. They ate apples, figs, and almonds. Greek people probably didn’t have chickens, or chicken eggs, until around 500 BC – so when Socrates says to sacrifice a rooster to Asclepius, he’s thinking of something new and cool. Greek people started to import black pepper from India about the same time.
Most people only had meat on holidays. But people still liked cakes with honey, and yogurt with honey and walnuts in it, for dessert. They also ate a lot of figs, apples, and pears, both fresh and dried.
Learn by doing – a Greek feast
A project with figs
Making lentil soup
And making baked apples
Using olive oil for light: Greek oil lamps
Food and Feasts in Ancient Greece, by Imogen Dawson (1995). – both a general discussion of how food was used in Ancient Greece, and some recipes.
Spend the Day in Ancient Greece : Projects and Activities that Bring the Past to Life, by Linda Honan (1998). Also for kids, with recipes for a Greek feast.
Food in the Ancient World A-Z, by Andrew Dalby (2003). Not a kids’ book, but pretty easy going.