Over a Hot Stove: Women in the Kitchen 

(Karanou Chania / Crete,  2015, July, 25-26)


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Amazons, the “different” women: what did they cook, eat and why? (Gr.)
Kleanthi (Cleo) Pateraki, Dr., Archaeologist.

In the oral presentation the case of the Amazons, the “different”, not “normal”  women will be examined. Firstly, the etymology of the word “Amazon” will be investigated as it is presented in the ancient sources, as explained in ancient Greek, as interpreted in other ancient languages, but also as explained by modern researchers.
Then the existence of such representations in ancient art will be searched. Is the iconography of the Amazons who eat or cook preserved? The ultimate goal is to draw conclusions for the eating habits, the cooking skills and the overall “gastronomic identity” of the Amazons.

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Women as extraordinary cooks in Ancient Greek literature.
Alexandra Neagu, Dr., Independent Scholar /Teacher

Although cooking has been regarded as a basic feminine domestic labour, with  male labour exercised in the public space, there is little literary mention of the activities of Ancient Greek women in the kitchen. As a consequence, the question of the presence of women at symposia or at private meals has been widely debated within the gender   studies field, with scholars such as John Wilkins of Andrew Dalby arguing that women did not eat along with men, although they cooked meals. However this perspective has not adequately addressed the issue of the absence of women as cooks in ancient Greek literature.
My paper addresses the portrayal of women as extraordinary chefs, with special attention to their skills resulting in the corruption of the principle of sharing of the food or of the purpose of cooking altogether. Thus, I will examine the examples of Medea  in Simonides and of Praxagora in Aristophane’s Ecclesiazusae, to highlight how they corrupt a process that not only concerns the culinary but also the social and the political  realms. In other words, I will discuss the political concerns of cooking and how it can be used as a means of unsettling gender and social status determined   hierarchies. I argue   that the absence of women engaged in culinary activities in Greek ancient literature and their occasional portrayal in an association of cooking with magic is to be regarded as a sign of the need of male control over the sensitive and critical domain of the daily life which is food. In conclusion, by closely examining the interference between gender and cooking, my paper sheds new light on the rarely acknowledged issue of women as both nurturing and disturbing culinary agents in Ancient Greece.

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Skorodon (Garlic) – food and medicine! … The “fertility Test” of Hippocrates, known and applied today by the “Greeks” who live in the Himalayas !! (Gr)
Vassileios Tritakis, Doctor

A Greek tribe in the Western Himalayas – in Malana region at an altitude of 3200 meters uses Skorodon (Garlic) on pessoi (vaginal pessaries with a base of sheep’s wool) to protect the vagina, for female contraception (in combination with other herbs) and gynecological hygiene. Medical Doctor Vasileios Tritakis traveled to the Himalayas in 1990, studying Greek tribes and their medical traditions wanting to rediscover the lost knowledge, the legacy we have left as Greeks to the Asians, the then ”famous Greek  Medicine” that always followed the Great Greek Campaign of Alexander the Great in India and as far as the Great Ocean … (currently the Hindus River). The groups of warriors who had been appointed by Alexander the Great as garrisons at important passes in Paropamisos and the Himalayas today are tribes worth noticing, with very specific characteristics – and very different habits and languages – from the native indigenous tribes. Usually the Greeks who were left as guards had a solid knowledge of the ancient   Greek medicine and the natives from the surrounding areas (Indians and other tribes) sought mainly medical assistance from them.
The Greek tribe in Malana – Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh) have some special features that make them stand out from the other inhabitants of the area: the men sit having a rest and the women do everything…!!! Where does the habit come from: the warriors return from the battle and need to rest, sleep and be treated (nowadays they spin wool and weave their clothes on the loom) and women seem to do all the chores in the village. The visitor who approaches the inaccessible village is considered unclean (and potentially dangerous) while he/she is prohibited from touching certain sacred stones, must walk only on designated paths and is not allowed to approach the three springs of the village. There is no vehicular road leading to the village – only difficult and dangerous paths, while in some places if some planks – like small foot bridges are removed- the village becomes inaccessible to the outside world as a way of defense!!


“Agnos” the sacred plant of the goddess Hera. Today (after 3000 years) in Phytotherapy: given as medicine to the serious and responsible wise woman approaching or going through menopause … for hormone regulation!! (Gr)
Vassileios  Tritakis,  Doctor

Agnos (according to Dioscorides) is a very useful herb that usually grows on the banks of rivers and dry river beds. In the West it is called: Vitex Agnus Castus (Vitex = weave baskets) (Agnus Castus = Pure Lamb,  and by English: Chastity ~ Castus).” Virginity” was associated in ancient Greece primarily with the Goddess Hestia as well as Artemis, while for the married and mature women with the Goddess Hera (intertwined with the seriousness and the inner wisdom of the responsible and devoted mature housewife). In the ancient tradition Goddess Hera was born in Samos under an Agnos tree (where there is now the temple Heraion!!). We meet all three goddesses in the Agnos tree…!!
The ancient Greeks –the ordinary people and peasants- believed the basket willow-Agnos reduced sexual desire. Pedanius Dioscorides writes that: women soldiers gone to battle drank daily a decoction of Agnos to keep them ”chaste”…!! Also later, during the Roman occupation (this knowledge passed from the Greeks to the Romans) when the wives of Roman soldiers did the same using Agnos. They even scattered  branches of this bush around their home in order to reduce their sexual desire – but also highlight in public … what they were trying to do.
In Thesmophoria, a big important festival that only women participated, dedicated to the Goddess Demeter and the Institutions that she suggested to people – as laws and regulations of a refined and virtuous life !! (Falling about every October – November) women who took part had to go through several purification steps with the expected cleansing preparations. One such purification practice for them was to sleep on mattresses of large Agnos twigs placed near the statue of goddess Demeter, because they believed that the plant had the power to suppress the natural sexual desire and help menstruation!!! (The strict requirement was: all women were to refrain from all forms of contact and communication with their husbands)
In the Middle Ages in the numerous Christian monasteries throughout Europe, the monks were adding to their meals seeds of Agnos (Monk’  s pepper), in order to appease their sexual desire – which had been seeded by the devil … It is also said that they often used flagellation with branches of Agnos.
From the rod of our disciplinarian teacher (which was made from Agnos twig for it had a nice smell …) to the current use of Agnus Castus as a medicinal, aromatic and beekeepers plant, used until recently in
basketry, its essential oil is a biocide with progesterone Properties, while its flowering shoots are insecticidal.


Cooking struggles in Cretan Folktales: Undermining patriarchy & forging solidarity among women.
Irene Sotiropoulou, Ph.D   Economics.

The paper is part of a larger research project concerning grassroots economics, i.e. theory and practice, which exist among everyday people and communities, in spaces which are more informed by everyday communal life and/or social movements than by established economic thinking. Folktales, therefore, are one among the sources I use for learning and  understanding grassroots economics.
In this paper, I analyse folktales within the framework of capitalist patriarchy having in mind that the folktales draw ideas and resistance stories from social struggles and  arrangements that might be non-capitalist and/or non-patriarchal at the same time. My case studies are various folktales from the island of Crete, Greece, and the main research question is how kitchen work performed by women is valued and perceived through local folktales and how the folk narratives of women’s kitchen tasks raise issues about the possibilities for fighting back patriarchal rules and enhancing solidarity among women.
The next section presents the theoretical framework of analysis and section three explains how folktales function as sources of grassroots economics. The research questions and the method of analysis are presented in section four and section five examines the main themes emerging in Cretan folktales with reference to women’s work and action in the kitchen. In section six I discuss how the themes answer or illustrate better the research questions and the concluding remarks are presented in section seven.

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Dining rooms and food preparation areas in Athenian houses of 19th and 20th century: Class representation and social symbolism. (Gr)
Maria Leni, Archaeologist, Directorate of Protection and Restoration of Modern and Contemporary Monuments

The social changes and the reassessment of the role of women’s labor in the 20th century turning point have reflected on the architectural development of the Athenian houses. These buildings offer valuable elements regarding the gendered division of domestic space and work. The distinction also has class character. The layout and location of the interior rooms, such as the dining room or the kitchen, are  parallel to the social status of those who work or reside in them.
The arrangement of the rooms in the upper class houses reflects the gender and social background of the ones using them. The rooms related to the family’s public life, such as the hall, the lounge, the ballroom and the dining room are located on the frontal part of the houses. Some of the public spaces are most commonly used by men, such as the library, the office or the reading room and the special room where  smoking is permitted, whereas women usually gather in a separate living room. The secondary rooms, such as the kitchen and the storage rooms, like the cellar, are used by the servants, who are usually women. The auxiliary rooms are located on the back of the houses, sometimes also in a short distance from them, in order to avoid odors from the cook house.
The evolution of location of the kitchen at the early 20th century residences, from the back of the houses to their front along with the living room, that is from the isolation of private living to the unification with the public spaces of the house, is related to the changing social status of women and their role in the house.


The role of culinary traditions to reconstruct a lost identity and keep a family together…
Ipek Οzel, Lecturer, Istanbul Bilgi University, Department of Communications.

Although the Greco-Turkish population exchange after the Lausanne Treaty was not the first or the only one during those years, we can easily say that a population exchange of this scale had not been carried out before in 20th century history. The forced exchange was dramatic not only because of its magnitude but also because of the “irreversible consequences” for the persons, for the regions and for the cultures it affected. Those  forced to leave were also forced to leave all the wisdom of a whole lifetime accumulated in that specific place, of many many generations. Even worst, the impact of this huge exchange transcended the national and individual boundaries and affected the extended families as well. There are still 3rd-4th generation refugees who carry the same melancholy.
Although nuances may be observed among the waves of refugees and their respective behavioural patterns, they all shared the same fate: Not only being expatriated in their due destinations but also, now, they were ”Twice a Stranger”: They did not fit well into the picture of a traditional Turkish/Greek society; they were destined to be “the other” in their assumed homelands and they had to redefine their “identity” in a new context … They had to put together who they are and who they could be in this new land.
To be able to do so refugees turned inside so that they can strengthen their unique culture behind the walls. They ritualised nostalgia with their everyday lifestyles.. With their customs, cooking habits… table manners…. Cuisine.. music,…home decoration… smell of the jasmine women carry in their bra ..the red geraniums on their balcony.. their Linen table clothes hanged in the wind.. etc etc etc
They certainly brought their culinary tradition based on not only what they ate but also how they prepared what they ate and how they serve their food. This traditions were so strong that even the third-generation Muslim Cretans living in Asia Minor, who has never seen the island still cook and eat like a Cretan, even one hundred years after the population exchange. One visiting a Cretan refugee family can easily observe that the   Cretan spirit is still so strong. It is that strong that one can easily witness that wherever the Cretan may live, the spirit of the island is there!

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In her Kitchen: sharing memories from grandmothers around the world.
Thei Zervaki, Writer, blogger

Amateur and professional cooks alike seem to remember their grandmother when they talk about   food. Her recipes, amazing cooking and baking techniques, unexpected gourmandise and above all   her philosophical approach to food and life, the granny has a ubiquitous presence in the kitchen. This presentation will feature culinary stories from grandmothers around the world.
Who is speaking: An 11-year old grandson, a food producer in Canada, a food writer and photographer in Italy, an American wine expert and the speaker herself, we will all share our granny’s stories who inspire and surprise and ultimately give us the motivation to create something wonderful and tasty in the kitchen.

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Women in culinary poetry: studying The Hungry Ear.
Thei Zervaki,  Writer, blogger

This presentation will examine culinary poems from the recent culinary collection The Hungry Ear (edited by Kevin Young, Bloomsbury, 2014). This collection includes 158 poems with a food theme. It will identify poems where the feminine presence is dominant, will highlight similarities and
differences in their features and discuss the role of women in this interesting culinary form of writing.

Will look approximately at 10 poems including:

A Short History of the Apple
Pot Roast
Remembering Kitchen

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Paphian culinary traditions in Late Hellenistic period.
Kamila Nocoń, Ph.D Candidate, Archaeologist

The aim of the poster is to present a traditions in cooking in Late Hellenistic Nea Paphos in  Cyprus. Since the 2011 the Jagiellonian  University conduct an excavation in the heart of this ancient city, the Agora. Vessels related to preparing food have been unearthed in huge amount in the material culture from Nea Paphos That pottery assemblage will help us to better understanding the cooking traditions in the city. I would like briefly examine the changes of the Paphian cooking traditions based on the analysis of cooking pottery assemblage from Paphian Agora from late Hellenistic period.

Video art
Edible Tales 
Katerina Fanouraki, Artist /Performer

The food was always connected with the human being.
Milk as a vital substance for his nutrition through his infancy. A child crawls on the floor, struggling to discover its movement abilities. It sucks its palms and fingers, covered with milk.
Figs as aphrodisiacs. A young girl devours the figs from the bawl under her thigs. She flirts with the audience and offers them the luscious fruits.Figs’ shape looks also like a vagina or sperms. Under a white sheet, the girl becomes a woman through her first sexual intercourse.
A mourner cleanses with red wine the woman’s corpse and endows her with her last garment. She completes the following food ritual: she lays on the eyes and mouth of the departed, unleavened small breads with wishes written on the top of them, addressing the dead. She puts on the late’s hands a round bread roll, with a black cloth and hair from the deceased, so her spirit will recognize herself, on the first days on earth, and not heart the family. In ancient years, the black colour was considered to have magical powers and protect from the demons. Finally, she puts three cups stuffed with red wine, wheat and sweets, offers for the asleep.
The performance is being accompanied by the wonderfull traditiona Balcanic melodies from Bosnia, Albania and Greece that refflect in their own archaic sound, the perpetual story of life, love, sex and death.

A performance-archaeology work
The Meal
Thanasis Deligiannis, Composer / Performer & Efthimis Theou, Actor / Archaeologist

The interdisciplinary work The Meal is one of the very first efforts to explore the borders of communication between performance and archaeology in Greece. It studies the complexity of food experience using the data derived from the research around the Neolithic site of Koutroulou Magoula (Fthiotis, Greece).
A year-long preparation was set to develop, as well as to combine the chosen artistic and scientific tools, which included excavation, ethnographic research, photographic documentation, study of the archaeological finds and composing. I was first presented on the site of the excavation on September 2011.
The work seeks to become a vivid and multi-sensorial narration of an archeological space, proposing an embodied and personal way of reading the archaeological material, in contrast to the nationalistic readings being imposed today with ever-increasing frequency.

First presented at Koutroulou Magoula, Neo Monastiri, Fthiotis, Greece, September 2011.
Part of the Koutroulou Magoula Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography Project
Official Greek selection for the 17th Mediterranean Young Artists Biennale in Milan.







The Symposium was held under the auspices of the Municipality of Platanias.