Ancient “Gemistas” for the Greek Gods

By Evmorfia Kouri Vritzali, 11, Switzerland & Greece

For our fourth Holidays All World Round post, Grecian expat Evmorfia explores how Greek foods (ambrosias) intertwine with ancient mythology to produce the richest, most nutritious meals once only for gods. Then, she’ll lead you through one of these indulgent recipes herself, full––literally and figuratively––of flavor (nectar). Though cooked and consumed in Lefkadi, a small town on the west coast of Greece known best for its bluest beaches, Evmorfia’s grandmother’s gemistas will bring aromas of Greece anywhere in the world. Because in Greece, food isn’t simply fuel: it is culture, family, and blood––almost as sacrosanct as the gods.

Greeks love food and are definitely among the experts in the taste factor. This stems from their ancestors who connected food to gods. They loved their gods so much that they even made delicacies (ambrosia) to eat and drinks full of flavours (nectar) that only the gods could drink.

Greek gods and their associated foods.

Many gods and goddesses had foods that they represented. Demeter and Persephone were the goddesses of bread. Ceres was the goddess of crops. Dionysus was the god of wine. Some of the ancient vegan Greek recipes have been passed on throughout the centuries so that the modern Greeks could proudly cook the delicious “ancient gemista,” a blend of tomatoes or big chubby green peppers stuffed with rice mixed with crops, leaves and spices or meat if you dare to break the vegan promise .

Below you will find the ingredients, ways of preparation, and baking times.

Gemista

INGREDIENTS:

  • Ripe tomatoes
  • 6 peppers
  • Half kilo of minced meat
  • Tomato juice or tomato puree and water
  • 2 teacups rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon chopped mint
  • One and a half teacups olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

METHOD:

First wash the tomatoes and peppers. Then cut a thin round slice off the top of the tomatoes with a sharp knife and keep them aside. Scoop most of the tomato pulp out, with a teaspoon, and shred it finely. Cut the tops off the peppers and keep them aside. Then prepare the stuffing with the following way: Heat the oil in a cooking pan and saute the onions in it, until they look brown. Add the minced meat and let it saute for 10 minutes, stirring with a spoon all the time. Add the tomato pulp, the parsley, salt, pepper, the mint and some water and let them simmer for approximately one hour. Then wash and strain the rice. Add the rice to the stuffing mixture continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Fill the tomatoes and peppers, which you have arranged in a Pyrex dish or baking pan, with the prepared stuffing. Replace the previously saved tops of the tomatoes and peppers. Pour some tomato juice into the pan/dish and fill the gaps between the stuffed tomatoes and peppers with slices of potato. Bake it in a medium oven for approximately 40-45 minutes.

Bon appetite!

Published by holidaysallyearround

For most cultures, holidays serve as the only opportunities in the year in which we come together: to reunite with faraway relatives, reconcile our past ancestors, and refill stomachs. And for most, holidays fall deep into history, myths, or grandma's fictitious tales that dictate the food boiling after a sacrificial ceremony to the decorations adorned on doors.

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