Honey – a Food for Life

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DIET (δίαιτα) in the ancient Greek language meant ‘way of life’ encompassing food, exercise, massage, baths and other aspects of everyday life activities.

It has been known since Ancient times that food, exercise and lifestyle in general, plus the external environment in which people live, have a definite influence on their health. 

 Hippocrates changed the diet of his patients to help them get better. He advocated a number of foods, but he believed that honey and wine are the two most important foods for health.

A story found in a famous ancient book, the ‘Deipnosophists’ (translated as the ‘Banquet of the Philosophers’) and written by Athenaus in the early 3rd century AD, gives us an idea of the nourishing power of honey.

According to it, Democritus of Abdera who was often called the ‘Laughing Philosopher’, was coming to the end of his life, at the great age of 104. His food intake had gradually reduced and he was expected to die. It was, however, the time of the important Thesmophorian festival and his centenarian sister who looked after him at his home, asked him not to die during the festivities so that she could take part in them. Wanting to grant her request, he asked for a pot of honey to be brought to him and was kept alive by inhaling the fumes of it, for three days. When the festival finished, the pot of honey was taken away and he passed away without any suffering. 

 

JEWELLED PORRIDGE – AN ANCIENT RECIPE MADE NEW

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Porridge is a traditional Scottish food. I took this nutritious dish and added a Mediterranean twist to it with some extra beneficial, fragrant and colourful ingredients.  

Saffron is a precious spice with numerous health benefits, including anti-tumour activity and anti-depressive effects, which are currently being researched. You can find good quality saffron in a Persian or Middle Eastern shop where it is often cheaper than the high-street supermarkets.

The ingredients in this recipe go back to Antiquity, although perhaps Hippocrates would have used barley instead of oats. If you choose the Hippocratic version, then soak the barley overnight and follow the steps below:

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

2 cups milk (goat’s, soya or rice) or 1 cup milk and 1 water

3 green cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

1/3 tsp ground saffron (or a small pinch of saffron threads roughly cut with your fingers). Alternatively, make ‘saffron water’ the previous day by adding 1 cup boiling water to the saffron threads and leave overnight.

1 tbsp raisins

1 tbsp goji berries or other dried fruit

For the sprinkling on top:

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tbsp freshly ground mix of poppy, flax and sunflower seeds

1 tbsp pumpkin and sesame seeds

fresh berries or pomegranate seeds, when in season

1-2 tbsp good quality, cold-pressed honey (avoid heated honey as the process of heating destroys its healing nutrients)

Directions: 

Bring the milk and water (or saffron water) to a boil in a non-stick pan.

Add the oats, raisins and goji berries and mix well.

Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and ground saffron.

Cook slowly on low heat.

Simmer until the mixture reaches a creamy consistency.

Spoon the porridge into individual serving bowls.

Sprinkle the ground seeds, cinnamon powder and berries.

Serve hot with milk and honey.

Enjoy the smell and the colours.

Taste it and appreciate the textures.

It will give you energy to start your day.

 

 

 

JUST HONEY

Hippocrates, who lived 2,500 years ago, helped people maintain or restore their health by changing their DIET (ΔΙΑΙΤΑ). The word diet in Ancient Greek means ‘way of life’ and encompasses food, physical activity, massage, baths, sleep and other aspects of everyday activities.

We’ve known since ancient times that food, exercise and lifestyle, as well as the external environment, influence our healthFor this and many other reasons, food has always been a subject of interest for lay people, writers and philosophers alike. In the famous ancient cookery book ‘Deipnosophists’ (which means the ‘Banquet of Philosophers’) written by Athenaus in the 3rd century AD, we read the interesting story of the death of Democritus of Abdera, the ‘Laughing Philosopher’.

Feeling quite old at the age of 104, he had decided that his time had come to die. He had gradually reduced his food intake and was expecting to leave this life soon. It was however the time of a very important womens only festival, the Thesmophoria, dedicated to the goddesses Demeter and Persephone. His sister, who looked after him at his home and, who was herself more than 100 years old, asked him not to die during the festivities because she wanted to take part in them. Democritus, wanting to grant her wish, asked for a pot of honey to be brought to him. He kept himself alive for three days just by inhaling the fumes from the honey. When the festival had finished, the pot of honey was taken away and he passed away without any suffering.

This story from Ancient Greece graphically depicts many elements of nutritional care which we encounter in our modern medical practice and which we categorise as physical, cultural, social, ethical and emotional.

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