Foods of religious importance in my practice

(Disclaimer: This is a repost from an ask I got on Tumblr, which ended up being more detailed than anticipated. The question asked was: “Do you have any food or drink recipe that is spirituality important?”)

I do. Very much so. I feel like I need to split the answer in two parts, starting with foods and recipes that hold (some) ground with ancient sources and the second about foods that I included in my practice of my own chief.

Okay, so, in the first category we have:

  • Fasolada: it’s the closest modern dish I’ve found that lines up with the knowledge we have of the bean soup that was offered at the Pyanopsia, in honour of Apollo. In all cases, the Pyanopsia involved stewing beans, and that soup just fits the deal. I don’t celebrate the Pyanopsia since I switched calendar, but I’ll keep making the soup in winter because it’s tasty.
  • Kolyva: From what I’ve seen it seems commonly accepted that the modern koliva is a direct descendant of the panspermia offered on the third day of the Anthesteria. I’m still torn on whether or not it should be eaten ritually considering this is the chthonian food per excellence but it is absolutely spiritually important. I did make some on the Chytroi this year, and instead of shaping the almond in the shape of a cross in the Christian fashion, I shape it in the simplest form the caduceus can take.
  • Barley milk porridge/pudding: Or with rice, if I’m lazy but I make that for the Galaxia, in honour of Cybele. The existence of the “galaxia” as being “a barley porridge from milk” is also quite solid (all scholars I’ve seen use Hesychius for this claim). Recipe wise, I use the same method as you would for a rizogalo, with just keeping in mind the increased cooking time because it’s barley.
  • Fig bread: This is for the Plynteria, where fig bread or a string of dried figs were carried in front of the procession leading Athena to the shore where she’d be washed and clothed etc. I don’t celebrate the Athenian Plynteria anymore but I kept the fig bread for the Thasian one, where it serves the same apotropaic purpose but with another set of deities.
  • Bread/honey cakes: classics that I wasn’t going to mention because they’re given but bread is an integral part of a festival I added to my calendar, the Megalartia. While attested in Delos/“the Cycladic network”, it’s in Boeotia that it’s said to be about offering big loaves of bread filled with lard and shaped to look like goats for Demeter. As for honey cakes, they’re so common that I’ve included them in several forms, and – honey being an incredible substance – that alone gives it spiritual meaning.

In the second category:

  • Fakes soupa: A lentil soup. I make this one on the Maimakteria, which is a festival attested in Thasos. Maimaktès is an epithet of Zeus, but I added Boreas to this festival because of the wintery timing. While researching Boreas, I came across this line in Meander’s The Catharginian “Although I have offered a bit of incense to Boreas, yet I have never caught a fish; I shall have to make lentil soup.” Lentil soup was seemingly a poor man’s meal and might have made a common offering to the gods. But that stuck with me and lentil soup being a very wintery dish, I decided to keep it for that festival.
  • Wheat berry and petimezi soup: This one I do for the Poseideia (again a mid-winter festival) because the ingredient list very conveniently fitted a 2nd century BC inscription from Delos where the “shopping list” of foodstuff for the festival is listed (CGRN 199). I simply replace the wheat berries with barley groats if I want to stick with the source material there. It’s also quite a pleasant dish, that leans on the sweeter side.
  • Cucumber salad/pickles: This is a very personal one because I made it up when I invented the Priapeia. During the Summer Priapeia, I offer to Priapus the biggest cucumber in the batch I bought. Some of the cucumbers are offered and consumed in the form of a creamy salad, while another batch is used for pickling. The cucumbers that end up in pickles are then used in the Spring Priapeia (roughly 7-8 months later) in a tuna salad because this one celebrates Priapus as a patron to sailors. Yes, I have a whole cucumber cult, don’t ask. 😂
  • Dolmades: My father loved rice dolmades and basically fed that to me every summer. It took me an embarrassingly long time to connect the dots and realize they were prime Dionysus offering foods. They’re semi-regular offerings and my “lazy” offering since I can get canned ones.

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